Women’s Safety in the Workplace

Author: Dhanashree

The following post originally appeared on this blog.

THIS COULD’VE BEEN ME

by Dhanashree Jambekar

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Pune: Woman techie murdered on Infosys campus, police arrest security guard

As I read this news, again and again, over and over, I couldn’t help but think – this could have been me.

Couple of years ago, I too was 24-25, working in a well-known, MNC, IT firm, with security guards 24 hrs. But I still didn’t feel safe.

There were 4 buildings of 4 floors in my campus. My desk was on 2nd floor in one of those buildings. And there was a security guard on each floor, working in shifts. So at a time, there would be at least 16 security guards inside the buildings with an extra bunch of them on the main gate, surveilling the visitors and vehicles. Around 3000 employees working in the general shift. And I still didn’t feel safe.

Why?

There was a male security guard on the ground floor of my building. Every time I would pass by, he would start whistling or singing songs. And so subtly that no one else would realize his change in behavior. I could understand his intentions just by one-look-in-his-eyes. Even while writing this post, I can feel that vulgar look, I feel like I was getting raped, every time I passed by. It would happen minimum 4 times a day. And it was enough for me to start hating my office, and not want to go there everyday, just to avoid that creature.

I am not a strong girl, I know. I couldn’t give him a bold look and shut his mouth. Forget about making noise and grabbing attention of others to his behavior. I didn’t even dare to tell this to anyone for long time. I wanted to tell this to my mom at least, but I didn’t. I knew what she was going to tell me, I knew she was going to tell me to act and complain and I know that is right. But I just didn’t have the courage. I don’t know if I have it now either.

There was a lady security guard on my floor. And luckily we would get along well. But I was hesitant to tell her. What if the guy is her friend? What if she didn’t believe me? What if it turned back on me? I don’t know how long I bared those poking eyes, but one day at last, I told her. I told her that guard on the ground floor looks at me weirdly and I don’t like it.

Well, thankfully, she too was against him for some reason. She said there are many complaints against him already. And she immediately made a call to her senior right in front of me and told them about my complain. She didn’t disclose my identity as I told her I was scared.

Within few days, he was removed from the office and I didn’t see him ever again.

I got lucky. But this poor girl from the news report didn’t 😦

I ask Why??

I think there is something completely wrong with people’s mentality. It is totally flawed. And it has to be uprooted. But I don’t know how. I just sit at my desk.

Frightened. Sorry. Worried.

But Why???

What do you think are the answers for these WHYs?

Can you think of a way in which this situation could have been avoided?

Do you think learning martial arts is a solution? (Are you going to give the same answer to a 4 year kid, irrespective of the gender, who gets raped?)

It is a time to bring a revolution, in our thoughts, in our education, in the way in which we treat people.

If everyone makes sure that they think right, and take responsibility for at least the other 3 or 4 members in their family to think sanely I think we will be making an effort towards a better and a safe future.

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Added by Priya:

  • How can we make workspaces safe for women?
  • What are some spheres where education/awareness need to be happening?
  • How can well-intentioned male co-workers help?
  • How much responsibility does the company have in providing women a safe work environment?  How do women demand this from their companies?
  • When there is a potentially troubling situation (such as harassment), are there avenues/protocols to report it without stigmatizing the victim?
  • Any other helpful thoughts and discussion and sharing of experiences are welcomed.

40% of rape charges were filed by parents of girls who had eloped consensually with a boy

Here’s a simple answer to why India is so unsafe for women.

The way we define rape is wrong.

1. Rape for many Indians is – ‘sex with the forbidden woman’.

2. Many men (and women) have no understanding of  Consent (by women)

3. There is no effort to talk or understand – ‘Violation of a woman’s autonomy and bodily integrity’.

4. Most Indians can’t imagine (or understand or tolerate or permit) women owning their own bodies or their own sexuality.

Why?

Because,

1. A woman’s consent is seen as given (to her husband) by the society/family once she has been ‘married off’ (which is why marital rape is not a crime)

2. And if a woman is not married, then her Consent is seen as immoral, shameless, deserving of punishment via killing, sexual assault or violence, boycott etc.

Women’s safety for many Indians is ensuring they remain ‘pure’ (sexually inexperienced) till they are married.

And the biggest concern in case of violent sexual assaults for many is  – to ensure that the survivor’s identity is not revealed. Why? So they can pretend the crime never happened, which is essential for the survivor (and her siblings and cousins) to be ‘married off’.

So, when we are fighting for women’s safety – what exactly are we fighting for?

Do read,

Rape and Rakhi – Patriarchal-Communal Narratives: Kavita Krishnan

‘The recent research by Rukmini S of The Hindu, on rape trials in Delhi, found that some 40% of rape charges were filed by parents of girls who had eloped consensually with a boy, very often from another caste or community.

 

In these instances, ironically, the girl experienced violence – abduction, confinement, beatings – at the hands of her own family, rather than at the hands of the alleged ‘rapist’.

 

And the violence may be at the hands of the State too. Policemen routinely abet the family’s violence towards such women. And in one instance studied by Pratiksha Baxi in her recent book Public Secrets of Law: Rape Trials in India, a woman who had eloped to marry by choice, was jailed for abetting her own rape and abduction.’

 

Related Posts: 

Is rape the worst thing that can happen to an Indian woman?

Where Consensual Sex is Rape, and Forced Sex a legal right.

Panchayat orders girl to marry her rapist because one way to make a Rape right is to make it Marital Rape.

Making Marital Rape a legal offence is the fastest way to make it clear that Rape means forced sex, not lost Virginity or Honor.

“Instituting the idea of marital rape raises the specter of a man going for long periods without sex even though he’s married!”

What do you think of these doubts regarding recognition of marital rape as a crime?

Forcible sex with wife doesn’t amount to marital rape: Court

7 things that can make ‘Rape sometimes right’.

Would this crime have been reported if he had mercilessly raped her but not sodomised her?

Here’s why a 6-year-old rape survivor was ordered to marry alleged rapist’s 8 year old son.

“…offenders who raped unmarried (and virginal) women got higher sentences in contrast to men who raped married women”

“Girls should be married at 16, so that they don’t need to go elsewhere for their sexual needs. This way rapes will not occur.”

 

 

Martial Arts for women to fight back rapes?

Here’s a question I have been meaning to share.

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Prakhyath asked in an interview: For all these rapists, I believe they are using the girl’s lack of physical strength as an advantage. Don’t you think martial arts/gym and being strong will help them? Do you believe in self-defense kit for girls to fight rape?

My response : I should blog about this. While physical fitness would help in any crime or violent situation, I am not sure if it would protect a woman from a gang of, say eight or ten, or even four violent criminals. It seems, in 90% of sexual assault cases, the rapist is not a stranger, so it might help some women in dealing with those acquaintance rape, where there is only physical force being used and not some other form of coercion (like blackmail or verbal threats).

Martial arts require training, practice and general physical fitness, so how much time should women be expected to devote to keeping themselves safe from sexual assaults?

Also not all sexual assault victims are young adults, there are also the disabled and older women and children, not sure who and how much gym and fitness would help.

I am sure, it could give confidence and could ensure that one is able to escape if and when there is a chance to escape. Being able to jump over a wall or fence, being able to run reasonably fast, being able to drive, being able to use a cell phone, knowing emergency numbers etc should also be equally helpful, I think.

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Many who suggest martial arts/self defense training for women may or may not approve of Indian girls playing in the sun, wearing anything but (often difficult to run in) traditional clothing, traveling alone for work or classes, jogging or walking alone, participating in sports (Uterus might slip!) or using cellphone, even eating before their husbands and brothers.

Women are rarely encouraged to be, or to look strong.

“Hers is a body that is so different from the usual physical ideal that is shoved down women’s throats — the slim, uniformly “toned” but not muscular, waifish model body… “[Link]

And yet Patriarchy celebrates acts of violence (like a slap or burning of a motor cycle etc) by women who are protecting that which belongs to Patriarchy – their modesty/honor/chastity. And it also assumes all rape victims are young women being assaulted by strange men.

Related Posts:

“In unison, everyone agreed that asking her out was outraging her modesty…”

Although she did  ’take law into her own hands‘, Aarti Yadav, 22, has complete social approval and support.

“Protection and empowerment are really different things and perhaps don’t always go together.”

Carvaka shared this link and message.

‘Put curbs on Facebook, mobiles to protect girls’

Note the headline saying ‘protect’. You know that these traditionalists have sunk low when even TOI commenters can call their bluff.

Apparently our authority figures cannot tell the difference between protecting and restricting. I actually wonder if there is much difference. I wonder if there can be freedom when you need body guards and guidelines. Protection and empowerment are really different things and perhaps don’t always go together.

I don’t know what level this repot is at but I think some will like this better than the Justice Verma report.”

‘Put curbs on Facebook, mobiles to protect girls’

MUMBAI: The Dharmadhikari panel, in its third interim report to the state government, has suggested placing restrictions on social networking sites as they “corrupt adolescents”.

What do you think? Is it possible to be empowered when you are being restricted and/or ‘protected’? Is it possible to be really safe when you are not empowered?