We are all living in this illusion of safety. That a woman can be attacked and assaulted in the ladies compartment of a train is totally appalling. It shows us the lack of security and safety in our cities. Delhi, even though it is the capital of India, is somewhere I would not want to live in and neither would my parents encourage. Just the incidents that actually get reported would discourage any woman to go live on her own in the city. But this is closer to home!On 28th January 2011, there was this report in the newspaper claiming that Kochi is safe for women. I sarcastically had retorted that this is because women here do not step out after 7 pm!
If anything this recent tragedy that cut short the life of Soumya only points to the glaring issues that need to be addressed regarding the safety and security of women. The fact that this happened in the Ladies compartment of a train, is ironic and makes us question the kind of security provided. This struck me as my parents always asked me to avoid sitting in the ladies compartment unless there are a good number of co – passengers. According to them the ladies compartment in the most dangerous one!
Lot of hue and cry is being raised over this incident now. Citizens are agitated and indignant. The politicians are making statements and counter statements.A lot of promises are being made. The media is also giving a lot of hype. But what will change actually remains to be seen. Once this story becomes ‘stale’, will the issue of the freedom of a woman to travel, to even get out of the house at any time of the day remain an important issue? Will the women in Kerala stand up and raise their voice against any kind of exploitation or harassment faced by them almost on a daily basis? Or will they accuse each other of being the instigating these attacks? I now remember the public signature campaign that our college students’ council against the harassment faced by women while travelling in buses and otherwise. It had generated a mass response from both the local media and the public and a lot of changes were definitely brought about. But even those were short lived and not consistent.
Who is to blame for these kind of attacks on the dignity and safety of women?
The lax attitude of the government?
The society in which such perverted characters are molded?
How can such attacks be prevented? How can we make our cities safer for women? Multiple responsibilities fall on multiple people.
Let us first talk about ourselves before anyone else.
So how do we ensure our safety, security and keep our dignity? The easiest and most obvious is not to travel alone after a certain time. But that would only encourage these hoodlums to attack the women who have no other choice but to travel by night. And what if you are attacked when at home or somewhere else?
I have written down some thoughts, which came to my mind
- Learn some self-defense techniques! It will also boost your confidence.
- Be alert and aware of people and your surroundings (this is applicable whether it is day or night)
- Stay with the crowd. Especially at night do not move around deserted areas.
- Avoid speaking on the mobile phone or do anything which can make u seem distracted.
- Use a barrier or distance to make an attack difficult. Thus lock your doors!
- Always carry something, which is easily and quickly accessible to use as a weapon. An umbrella (especially the kalan kuda)! A Pen, a safety pin and don’t hesitate to use it if required!
- Do not hesitate to scream, shout in case you are being targeted whether overtly or covertly i.e attract attention.
- If attacked, act quickly and decisively. How to escape or how to fight and incapacitate the attacker needs to be decided keeping in mind the surroundings and the situation.
- Use your strongest weapons against the weakest targets of the attacker. The eyes, throat, and groin are the primary targets while the abdomen and face are the secondary targets. Your strong weapons are the bottom of your feet, elbows, hammer fists and palm heels.
- Stand up for any other woman being harassed or attacked. You also could be in a similar situation!
- Please do approach the authorities. Do not hesitate to file a complaint. The perverted offenders should not be allowed to move around scot-free.
- Share your experiences and tips on how to prevent such attacks with other women. Educate them.
These are not in any way an exhaustive list on how to prevent attacks and how to defend/protect yourself. But I hope it has given you some information and insight. If we act meek and submissive the chances of being targeted will only increase and at the same time reckless and reactive action is also not advised. Common sense, confidence and alertness are key to preventing attacks/ harassment and defending yourself.
What the government and railway authorities will or won’t do, we cannot be sure of. But that should not stop us from protecting our loved ones or ourselves.