For a country that’s one of the most dangerous for women, laws alone will not suffice. The society has to play a larger role for safety
A country with a population of over 1.2 billion people, of which 48.4 per cent are women, exhibits a pitiable picture of being among the world’s most dangerous state for females. Presenting a report released by Thomson Reuters Foundation, the CNN published an article where it stated that sexual violence against women — including human trafficking for domestic work, forced labour, forced marriage and sexual slavery — is highest in India than any other country in the world. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau, in the past decade, India witnessed 83 per cent rise in crimes against women. The largest democracy in the world is crestfallen when it comes to safeguarding its women. Why so?
The reason can only be deliberated and not defined. India has witnessed brutal and extreme cases of violence against girls and women, regardless of their caste, creed and colour. Everyday newspapers are full of horror stories about crimes against them. It appears that we have become a sexually perverted society where even a two-year-old girl is not spared. Some incidents like the Nirbhaya case or the Kathua rape incident do touch the conscience of the nation but that’s about it. Nothing changes on the ground. All such incidents are forgotten after a few days till another horrific story of brutal sexual assault on a girl is reported. After every new incident, there is an outcry and the Government promises new measures to protect the women lot. But unfortunately, the graph of gender-based violence shows no signs of abating. We all will agree that the enactment of new and stricter laws cannot alone tackle this menace. Something more needs to be done. Along with better policing and stricter implementation of laws, mass participation of citizens will go a long way in dealing with this problem. One such initiative was launched by a New Delhi-based NGO — Safe Girls Foundation — which has made safety of girls in our society its mission. It has been working tirelessly for the last four-and-half years to achieve this goal.
‘Safe Girls’ is an initiative started by Lt Col Rajesh Pawar and a group of concerned citizens after the horrific Nirbhaya incident that shook the country. This organisation has been silently doing its job by conducting safety and self defence workshops for girls and working women across the country. In just a span of four years, the foundation has conducted more than 350 workshops and training programmes and provided training to over 9,000 girls and women. Many have found this programme to be practical as it covers all aspects related to safety of women. Besides, it also seeks to improve their confidence so that they can deal with any kind of threat, thus ensuring their well-being. Unlike most martial art training schools and academies that have mushroomed all over the country, Safe Girls Foundation does not provide training just in any particular martial art but focusses more on the preventive aspects after carrying out a thorough research on the crime pattern and the modus operandi of the criminals in a particular area.
They have opted for a holistic approach to girls’ safety and have been imparting training that encompasses all aspects of women safety like raising alarm, psychological conditioning, enhancing situational awareness and visual intelligence, escape and evasion, verbal de-escalation skills, overcoming personal fears, avoiding and escaping kidnapping, safety on social media and some very realistic and practical physical techniques for self-defence. This foundation is modelled on data that captures how women are actually assaulted and then authentically simulates these scenarios, which is constantly updated. This is, undoubtedly, a unique approach to women’s safety, which is need of the hour.
Col Rajesh Pawar, who is also the lead coach of this foundation, has served with the Para Commandos and Special Forces in the Indian Army. He has been trained in martial arts, guerrilla warfare, survival and unarmed combat skills at various prestigious institutes in India and abroad. When enquired about his aim and motives for the organisation, Col Pawar explained, “Women empowerment in India will remain just a dream unless we as a society are able to give a sense of safety to our girls so that they can play, work and live freely without any fear of being sexually assaulted.” Initiative taken by Safe Girls Foundation is certainly a step in the right direction to make some ground-breaking difference in the Indian society. This is what our people need and this is what the society requires.
(The writer is independent researcher, MA in European and International Studies, King’s College london)