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All I ask for: safety for our children

It’s time we had a campaign to ensure the safety of our daughters.

I am writing this as a mother, a sister, an aunt, a colleague, a neighbour, a fellow passenger, a stranger — it really does not matter. I am a woman. I don’t feel safe in our country anymore. I worry about the safety of my beti (daughter).

I have lived almost all my life in Chennai, travelled by foot, two and four-wheelers, buses and trains. In my 20s, I had my share of experiences spotting exhibitionists at street corners, catching lecherous glares, paws reaching out on trains or feet nudging us at cinema halls. Yet, none of it made my blood boil as much as it does now that I am a mother of a teenage girl.

Like most of you, I have been reading about rape in our country, and with each passing day I realise it is only getting more gruesome, nonchalant and sensational.

Like most of you, I have been horrified, disgusted, angry and pained at the plight of the hapless victims and their helpless parents. Non-governmental organisations are doing their bit, candles are being lit, the media are screaming out at night, but little has been done to change their plight. Status quo remains.

I have neither statistics to share nor does anyone really care. For how does it matter, how many have been raped in how many days, or in how many different ways.

I did my share of discussing, ranting, seeking ideas on what can be done, but all I got was cynicism with a `what can I do’, and apathy with a ‘nothing will come out of it’, or stoic silence with a ‘it is best not to discuss this’ in return.

I realised some might want to do their bit, but do not know how to go about it, and yet others are waiting for someone to lead, so they can follow with their support indeed. That is perfectly fine, for it is a part of our culture — we have always been a pehle aap (you first) race.

This is why I decided to step forward and do something. Anything that might make a difference to our betis living, and not wait for something to happen to our daughters or sisters or mother, which is only when it will really matter. I thought it is high time I stopped waiting for someone to do something and I did it myself. Especially after reading the worst news this month — a seven month baby girl was raped by a 13-year old, leaving the baby bruised. And, yet another of a six-year-old by a 13-year-old, strangling her to death after he had his fill. The other day, it was a 50-plus man who raped a minor and dumped her body in a well.

I am beginning to think men have it easier these days. Earlier, they raped and fled. Today, they rape and kill. It is as good as ‘use and throw’. And they will continue doing so, unless there is a law that punishes them instantly, upon being caught. I am echoing the words of my maid, also the mother of a young girl. I was surprised and happy that she articulated what truly needs to be done, when my educated friends and family either ignored my question or were indifferent to the issue.

I am not getting into a debate on whether capital punishment is the answer or not, but unless the law punishes one, this atrocity will not stop. More men and boys will use and throw our girls — painfully, mercilessly, while we wait for more horrific stories in the media.

Martial arts, pepper spray and new-generation apps are all fine, but does that help beyond a point? None can change the attitude of the man whose mind is so sick that he dares to use and throw a woman.

Today, I am happy and proud that we have a beti bachao to stop female foeticide and a beti padhao to empower girls to be informed and aware. I believe it is time we had a similar campaign for beti ki raksha. This is my earnest appeal to all, to stop reading and start doing.

Back in my college days, I had a poster in my room that read `I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way’. As I attempt to take my first step forward in doing my bit, I hope my voice will soon be heard and many of you will be with me on this journey seeking safety for our betis.

(The author is a career-woman married to a merchant navy officer, with a teenage daughter in Class 10 in a leading school. E-mail: bindu@reloindia.com )

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 8:50:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/All-I-ask-for-safety-for-our-children/article14545979.ece

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