We have made significant achievements as a nation, crafting our unique narrative of a 21st-century India. We have advanced in various domains, including space exploration and research, information technology, healthcare, agriculture, sports, and many other sectors. Notably, we have ascended to being the fifth-largest global economy. While I take immense pride in our accomplishments, I occasionally ponder if we've truly realised the utopian “Bharat Varsh” destiny ingrained in our rich culture and heritage.
The frequent reports of crimes against women, particularly by those familiar to the victims like close family members, neighbours, employers, and friends, make me question our holistic progress as a civil society. It's disheartening to note that in many instances, victims either hesitate to report these crimes or are pressured into silence due to societal stigma. Globally, an alarming 736 million women, or 1 in 3, experience physical or sexual violence throughout their lives.
Extensive research reveals that the Indian government has launched numerous schemes to empower and safeguard women. The One Stop Centre Scheme, for instance, offers consolidated support to women affected by violence, encompassing legal aid, medical assistance, and counselling. We also have the Women Helpline Scheme, which facilitates access to essential services like the police and hospitals. Other notable initiatives comprise the Safe City Project, emergency Response Support System (ERSS), Nirbhaya Fund, Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013, Cyber Crime Prevention Against Women and Children (CCPWC) scheme, and various SOS mobile apps.
These initiatives undoubtedly support countless women nationwide. However, for optimal impact, a cohesive ecosystem is essential that can promptly identify, reach out, and assist distressed women. While these initiatives provide a foundation for long-term progress, rigorous monitoring and evaluation of interim milestones are crucial for crafting a society that genuinely respects and safeguards its women. Shockingly, on average, our nation allocates a mere 30 rupees per woman or girl each year to combat gender-based violence. In 2022, a staggering 79% of funds allocated under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) were expended solely on advertising, rather than on crucial sectors like health and education for girls. This disparity highlights the pressing need for an outcome-driven approach, redirecting our priorities towards a holistic assessment of programme impacts.
The government's flagship initiative, the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme, is designed to counteract gender discrimination and bolster female empowerment. The “Beti Bachao” component could symbolise the robust law enforcement framework we need, ensuring both victim support and stringent penalties for offenders. It's vital that our police force and judiciary are equipped to handle such incidents with the utmost sensitivity.
The government has also harnessed technological interventions, creating dedicated helplines for distressed women. Furthermore, mobile applications like SOS for Women, 121 mobile app, SpotnSave Feel secure, and Smart 24×7 have been developed. These digital tools, designed to enhance women's safety in public spaces, are invaluable. However, their effectiveness hinges on bridging gaps in digital access, capabilities, and adoption.
I advocate for a tech-driven solution wherein news related to crimes against women isn't confined to print media. Instead, this data should fuel a machine learning engine, which identifies high-risk areas in cities based on crime frequency and severity. This AI-driven tool could be integrated with navigation and ride-sharing apps, guiding women away from these danger zones. Additionally, it can devise surveillance and deployment strategies for police personnel and patrol vans.
The “Beti Padhao” facet of the BBBP scheme underscores the importance of equipping our women with proper education, the right mindset, and mental and physical resilience. This could be revolutionary in promoting women's safety. Being a student, I firmly believe that our foundational values and beliefs are moulded during our academic years. This period is opportune for instilling gender sensitivity and promoting equality among the youth. Proactive student communities at school and university levels can foster ongoing dialogues about women's safety, serving as pillars of support for the women in their circles.
Moreover, sustainable behavioural change will manifest when women confidently assert their rights, demanding the space and freedom they inherently deserve. It's our collective duty to cultivate a society where women's safety is paramount, for there's no envisioning an Indian superpower devoid of its ‘Indian Superwomen'.
The author is student of Class XII at DPS Gurgaon. Views are personal.