In wake of the horrific rape and murder of the Hyderabad vet, the Hyderabad police have issued an 14 point advisory for women to keep themselves safe. This advisory has precautions women can take while out of the home to ensure they are safe from violent crime.

The advisory says that women should inform their families or friends their location and share their travel details. If they are travelling in a taxi or an auto, they should share the driver details along with the number plate of the vehicle. Other details of the advisory state that women should make themselves acquainted with the route if it is an unfamiliar one, wait in crowded, illuminated areas and not in isolated ones. The advisory states that women should not hesitate to call a police patrol car or bike if they feel unsafe, and should dial 100 for help. For Hyderabad residents, they suggest downloading the Hawk Eye app instituted by the Hyderabad police. In a threatening situation, they recommend the woman shouts and runs towards a crowded area.

While these suggestions might be well intentioned, as any woman or girl would know, these are basic safeguards most women follow as default setting.

These suggestions might work, but what is more essential is prompt response from law makers when there is a call for help. A minister was reported as saying that instead of calling her sister, the victim should have called 100. The response from the 100 number, as a quick twitter straw poll showed, is inconsistent, with some people reporting a positive experience, and an equal number disappointed with the lack of timely response.

Read The 14 Point Advisory

In the vet’s case, when her family went to the police, they were shunted from police station to police station because the law enforcers could not decide which jurisdiction the missing person’s case should be registered under. The police also asked the family irrelevant questions about whether the missing vet could have eloped and whether she was having an affair.

Last year, in June 2018, a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation with responses from more than 500 global experts on the conditions for women across various countries had Indian ranked as the world’s worst place for violence against women. There was understandably, much outcry in India about this ranking. But what is galling is that ever since the heinous gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in 2012, not much seems to have improved for women and girls in this country. Kathua, Unnao, and now Hyderabad. Our country is mapped with centres which have seen heinous violence against women on a regular basis. What is worse is that these incidents are so brutal and so desensitising that we are now blocking out our reaction to them. Citizens are now taking these as the norm rather than the exception.

These advisories, like the one issued by the Hyderabad police, service no purpose other than putting the onus of her safety solely upon the woman.

The authorities instil no confidence by this advisory. What they’re saying instead, is that you need to watch out for yourself, because we have now told you what you need to do to keep yourself safe when you are out of your home. Why, instead, don’t we have an advisory from the police for men, telling them that if they do sexually assault a woman they are going to face a jail sentence, and possibly capital punishment.

The lack of fear and the absolute impunity that is leading to these violent crimes against women is a telling indication of how the men who perpetrate these feel they will get away with it. We spoke to young women to get their reactions on this advisory.

“These tips, though listed out for the safety of women, does not really ensure her safety! It is rather ways to survive the violence which is otherwise inevitable. I wont deny that the tips are helpful. It is true that women or anyone need to be alert every time. But, does it really make us feel free? The tips ultimately seems to reiterate the narrative that, “women need to be careful because the violence against them cannot be stopped!” If Prevention is the best medicine, why not prevent the perpetrators from committing the crime with the same intensity as restricting women from travelling alone and free? All we need is freedom to go anywhere and however we want. Why can’t a woman get a world where she can just loiter around, in secrecy, without telling anyone because maybe she wants some time for herself, away from her loved ones? Why is the danger of getting abducted, raped and murdered is always lingering? However far women empowerment treads, such tips that aim at controlling women and not the perpetrators, will always be a setback”  Rudrani,  MA student in English from Delhi University.

“These rules imply that a woman should live with fear and be anxious all the time when is stepping out. How is she going to concentrate on her education or career if she has to be cautious all the time? Personally, I love to read when I’m travelling and I don’t want to look around all the time to make myself feel safe. Why can’t government amend laws and also make new ones for us? Why can’t they make these smooth roads safe for us? This time people couldn’t blame it on clothes or alcohol so they made this list of rules for women to be safe. It’s not a woman’s fault and she doesn’t need to live in fear. Curfew, sharing location, shouting, running to a crowded place won’t stop rape; proper laws and better system can. Women need to be free and safe but these rules are trying to cage a woman by violating her right to privacy.” Aanchal Goswami, MA student in Gender studies. 

“After countless dates of cross examination, the victim continues to be slut shamed, threatened, intimidated, insulted and bullied by the rape accused and his loud, foul mouthed lawyer. The strategy is to break her, mentally, physically and emotionally. The law , which has been amended so many times to protect her, sits as a silent spectator to this relentless assault and the court meant to enforce the law, shows no inclination to do so.” – Rebecca John, Human Rights Lawyer, excerpt from her Facebook post.

“Precaution is better than cure, but what if your precautions are ineffective. In the article 14 precautions are mentioned that we can take to prevent any mishap, but are those even useful? Contact police van if you see one, when if it’s not there? Dial 100? Most of the time it’s busy or they don’t put efforts to be there to help someone in need. Share details of mode of transport? That’s not even a precaution. It can be used to take action against some crime that has already happened and you’ve fortunately survived it alive. Many points are there but they’re either precautions that do not guarantee one’s safety or they are the evidences that can be used later in case of justice which is not so often served.” Mishika Rawat, Mata Sundari College for women, Delhi University

“Instead of issuing so many guidelines for the women, the Police should actually put out stricter guidelines for the rapists who are actually committing such heinous crimes. Women, who are the victims can take innumerable measures, but if the culprits are free to roam in the society, and don’t understand the evil rooted crime they commit, then nothing can save the women. The problem needs to be looked into more clearly for real change.” Akanksha Gupta, Theatre Professional

“It is high time that men like those accused of gang rape should be also trained how to behave. Ultimately we can’t just live in a society which wants feminism without sensitising men of how to take feminism.”Manasi Bhushan, a lawyer practising in Delhi.

“The *’safety tips’* shared in the article above are/ maybe outdated and ineffective. In the worst situations, it is our phone that gets switched off first and the suggestions mentioned here speak about the use of our devices. Being watchful at all times is not even a solution until men out there don’t learn to respect that a ‘NO’ means a no.” Diya Garg, student, Mata Sundari College for women.

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