Feminism is the radical notion that women are people said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded definitio...

Monday, 2 February 2015

Women only spaces aren't the answer

Yet again it's election time and once more women's safety is one of the issues being discussed, in the run up to the elections in Delhi. Happy as I am to see women being given some importance at last - if only in party manifestos, with promises of protection. Of course, no political party is prepared to concede half or even a third of it's seats to women candidates.

Once more the talk veers to " safety " the holy grail of a woman's existence. This talk conveniently ignores the fact that we live in a society underpinned by patriarchy, which celebrates and elevates machismo and toxic masculinity. This is the reason women are unsafe, not because they are born less strong.

The traditional wisdom of women's safety, usually centered around keeping women away from dangerous zones locked up at home has at least changed somewhat. ( Let's not even begin talking about what goes on inside the home, where the vast majority of indian women report facing the most abuse and violence. )

We have at least moved beyond that. However, "women only" spaces, whether public spaces or in public transport, are not the answer. By limiting women's access to public spaces we only pander to the fear psychosis. By limiting women's freedom we play right into the hands of patriarchy, supporting the idea of women as fragile creatures needing protection in order to be safe. 

Segregation based on gender only contributes to further the impression that women are different, less able, fragile even, almost a curiosity. A society where gender segregation is the norm and boys are encouraged to see girls as different, 'the other" gender roles become even more entrenched by encouraging separate spaces for women in public too. 

A profusion of cctvs as suggested by some, is not the answer either. Yes, the frequency of instances of assault that women face in public spaces is high. But the issue of privacy seems to have escaped most of those who advocate the use of cctvs to monitor attacks on women. What about the privacy of the victims? Do we trust such a large network of closely monitored surveillance in the hands of the government who would use it to what purposes, who knows? 
Would you feel safe knowing your every move was being tracked by a public eye ? Big brother is here; all hail Big Brother ! 

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