Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, with an apparent focus on women’s safety, has called for the marriageable age for women to be increased to 21, as well as for working women’s movements to be monitored. On Monday, Chouhan said that the state will implement a new system wherein women moving out of their house for work will register themselves at their local police stations, following which they will be tracked for safety. Reiterating that crime against women has reportedly gone down in MP, he said his government will introduce further measures like panic buttons and helpline numbers to ensure women are protected.
Introducing the ‘Samman’ campaign for the security of women, Chouhan, as per Indian Express, has stated that a working woman “will be tracked for her safety.” But though it claims to be a judgment based on the well-being of women, Chouhan’s proposal raises alarming concerns. It suspiciously hints at tabs being kept on women independent enough to earn for themselves.
Can the road to ensuring women’s safety go down a path as treacherous and dubious as this? Does it not, in tracking women, iterate in a way that we are not equipped to be left alone out of doors? Won’t such a law, once again, place the onus of safety from harassment on women and not the perpetrators? From the most obvious standpoints, this plan for women’s safety has several glaring ethical and implementational loopholes.
Will Monitoring Our Movements Ensure Women’s Safety?
The CM’s statements have drawn a spate of reactions, many of which are from women disapproving of such a law ever being implemented. Some fear that if such measures come into place, women’s freedom will seriously be jeopardised, with the government keeping a watch on where they go and what they do. Moreover, it focuses less on making the outdoors safer than potentially restricting the movement of women. Shouldn’t a law on women’s safety concern itself with measures that grant women agency while simultaneously ensuring safety for them? To that end, panic buttons are a still better idea than monitoring where women go.
What perhaps makes it an even more half-baked idea is that it is supposedly only concerned about the safety of women moving for work. What about the million other women who walk on roads and through by-lanes and roam in public spaces? How will this law take those women into account? Will it “track” all the women of the state? What if a woman, who is travelling not for work but for recreation, faces an ordeal of harassment? How will the situation be estimated?
The introduction of such a law by Chouhan’s administration will lay claim to women’s bodies as the property of men meant to be protected – a patriarchal notion that has contributed to the oppression of women for ages together. And it will create a dangerously bigger space for victim-blaming. Would such legislation not give precedence to the circumstances of the crime – perhaps including what the woman was wearing, where she was, what she was doing at the time of attack – instead of pinning the blame solely on the criminal, as should be the case?
Social Media Reactions To Chouhan’s Remarks
According to reports, Chouhan was in high praise of the state police for a 5 percent dip in crime against women in between April and December 2020. This thread of positive change should be taken forward with stricter laws against perpetrators and a robust safety system in place. The proposed law of tracking women instead only beckons a backward journey, where an invasion of privacy and a saviour complex threatens to become the norm.
Here are some reactions from women across the internet:
As @lipstickpatrol rightly said, this is possibly how it will play out:
Those who register will be under surveillance & data of their whereabout used as blackmail/pressure/further harassment tool
Those who refuse to register will be blamed for their own sexual assault by men
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) January 13, 2021
Why not ankle bracelets? Easier, no? https://t.co/YjtikcofUZ
— Poulomi Saha (@PoulomiMSaha) January 13, 2021
Better to track men instead. The system will be foolproof. Why waste time in tracking women. Protect men. https://t.co/G7P41rnORz
— Rochelle Dsouza (@RochelleDsouza_) January 13, 2021
Meanwhile in India…… women’s bodies are the sites of religious patriarchy, again. https://t.co/aO5ZYcLTJX
— Shash Trevett (@ShashTrevett) January 13, 2021
Because Indian men won’t be held responsible for their actions.
What a disgusting Gilead-like place we’ve become. https://t.co/o0hfLYvrPX
— Ankita (@teeveetalker) January 13, 2021
Views expressed are the author’s own.