On Violence Against Women

Street sexual harassment is something that women have to contend with in India. While generally true, I have heard that the degree of harassment varies from city to city. Delhi is especially bad but Kolkata is a much safer place for women. It appears that in Kolkata, people take an interest in what is going on around them, and if they notice a woman being assaulted, they actively discourage the behavior by beating the crap out of the person. It is part of the culture and everyone knows. It basically is common knowledge: that if you are considering harassing a woman in public, you are likely to get beaten up; and if you the third party, you are expected to either initiate the roughing up or join in enthusiastically in the edification of the criminal.

Beating up guys for assaulting women is a second best response. It would be much better if they could be dealt by the law enforcement. But then there are better things for the law enforcement to do. Yet, there are ways of fixing the problem without too much effort. You don’t have to police people everywhere everyday for years on end. The society has to take a stance and decide to change the “culture” of violence against women. The cost is front-loaded but it is a one-time cost. Here is what you do.

Publish and make it known that violence against women will not be tolerated from such and such a date onwards. Make that date a few months into the future. Plaster the notice on such places where potential assaulters will have the opportunity to know that there will be zero tolerance for the crime. Make it known that the punishment will be exemplary and harsh.

Then go out and on that specified day, catch a few guilty of street violence against some women. Throw the book at them and report the incidents far and wide. Let it be shown on TV, talked about on the radio, discussed in the pages of the newspapers. Let the pictures of the guilty be published all over the place as if they were movie stars. Do this every few weeks and I guarantee that in a few months, street violence against women will be a thing of the past. The culture would have changed.

It is tolerance of what should not be tolerated that causes problems. People consider it acceptable—both the criminal and the victim take it as part of the way that the world operates. But if the signal goes out that that something will not be tolerated, people figure out the changed circumstances and respond appropriately.

You may recall what happened to the 18-year old American kid, Michael Fay, who was arrested in 1994 for vandalizing cars in Singapore. They caned him, since that was the punishment, and they did that despite pleas for clemency from the President of the US. The incident was well publicized and with good reason: the Singaporeans wanted to make sure that they did not have to cane too many people. People are rational beings and are quite capable of figuring out that vandals are punished severely in Singapore and alter their behavior appropriately.

The punishment for street violence against women, in my opinion, should be caning, followed by 100 hours of community service—picking up trash from the streets. Trash should be forced to pick up trash.

Impoliteness and rudeness in society is a symptom of deeper problems, rather than a problem in itself. While it is good to address the symptoms, it is also necessary to understand why it exists and what can be done to address its cause. That is a difference and long discussion, however.

- Action Hero Atanu Dey

Original post on http://www.deeshaa.org