More Power to Women: From the barrel of a gun (Asian women & guns)!
The number of gun licensing applications by Indian women has doubled since the infamous December gang rape and murder of a young female intern in the Indian capital of Delhi. This is indicative more of a total absence of even a semblance of faith in the ability of the government and the police force to protect them than anything else. In a country where increasingly large numbers of women are seeking employment, and beginning to alter the social dynamics of a deeply feudal society, the new found stridency of women has unnerved large sections of the male population.
These men have been conditioned by tradition to view women as being less than their equal and consequently resort to intimidation in order to put women in their place. Every day instances of rape, molestation, acid attacks and honour killings pour in from every nook and corner of the country. In fact ever since that dastardly incident in Delhi got wide-spread media coverage, more and more women are coming out to report instances of rape, molestation, physical attacks and other forms of harassment. Consequently there has been a sharp spike in the crime against women stats over the last three months.
The conditions as they prevail have shaken to the core; many of these women who need to commute to work and back home on a daily basis. They are not sure when the next attack claims a victim. Hence this clamour for obtaining gun licenses. Between December 18th, 2012, the day of the Delhi gang rape incident and January 1st, 2013, the licensing department of Delhi Police received a total of 274 gun license requests from women and more than a thousand of them made enquiries on the phone. The very fact that Indian parents are ready to shed their traditional reticence and allow their daughters to handle weapons is testimony to the kind of fear that exists.
However whether this kind of militaristic approach actually leads to any kind of enhanced security is highly doubtful. For one the scale of the problem is too big, and the socio economic factors too complex for this sort of thing to make a substantial difference. Some even feel this could make women vulnerable to violent reprisals. In any case this problem will not go away by pitting women against men. It will require major initiatives by the government, the civil society and indeed the people at large. As the economy opens up and the acceptance of women as important contributors grows, attitudes will change by and by.
In the meantime the police forces certainly need to get their act together and put in place systems that are largely effective in providing adequate security to the average Indian woman. This is the least that one can expect from a country widely heralded as a pillar of world democracy. There are regions of India that are regarded as being quite safe for women. Mumbai for example is one city where a young girl will think nothing of hailing an auto rickshaw at mid-night. The South of the country too with its culture of respect and courtesy towards women has a good record in this regard. So perhaps these templates could be studied and replicated elsewhere in the country.