Merry Christmas to our womenfolk

Merry Christmas to our womenfolk

Reproduced below is an extract from an email from a young journalist of a national paper:

 

The latest annual report from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on ‘Crime in India’, 2014, published in July 2015, reveals that Nagaland is the safest state for women in the country. It recorded 67 cases of crimes against women out of a total number of 1,157 cases of crimes registered under IPC in Nagaland. A total of 3,37,922 cases of crime against women were reported in the country during the year 2014. This is the second time that Nagaland has been named the safest state for women, with figures for 2013 indicating an identical number of cases reported for ‘Crimes against Women’, at 67. The state has an estimated female population of over 11 lakhs (in 2014) and the rate of crime per lakh of population is six—the average crime rate against women being 56.3. With its history of insurgency and the fact that Nagaland is essentially a patriarchal society, this is quite an interesting development and I thought the facts on the ground are worth exploring.

 

This should be news for all of us. 2015 has not been much different from other years. But it will carry the stain of the 5 March incident of mob fury against an accused rapist. Sexual crimes against women did happen throughout the rest of the year. One was the attack on a woman in her field with intent of murder after rape. With things like this happening, one doesn’t think of our land as particularly safe for women. So the crime statistics report comes as a pleasant surprise and I am looking at all the factors that make it a comparatively safer place for women than other places.

 

A big factor could be the patriarchal structure of our society which works to ensure that its women members are protected and provided for, first by the father of the family, and after marriage by the husband, and if he mistreats his wife, she is cared for by her brothers. This special position that a woman occupies in many Naga tribes could be a factor in making Nagaland a safe state for women. In addition, big public rallies are held to protest gender crimes, and put pressure on the government to give justice to the victims. (Of course we still have a lot to work on over the swift administering of justice to rape victims).

 

I was pleasantly surprised by the information from young working women that they feel safe to live in the state and move around in urban and rural areas. “We don’t get wolf whistles or snide remarks,” commented one of my women interviewees. Working women in Dimapur have reported that they felt very safe to be out and about in the daytime, and some have even reported that driving after dark posed no problems for them.

 

An army man from Rajasthan posted in Rangapahar for a few years, remarked with surprise on how his wife and teenage daughters were treated with great respect in Nagaland, as compared to the unwanted male attention they received in other states. His conclusion was that the culture of respect for women was very strong in Nagaland.
Yes, it is also part of our reality that some gender crimes do not get reported and therefore, do not get featured in the statistics; it does not change the fact that women are safer here than in other states of India. Both our present Christian culture and the patriarchal culture of our forefathers have contributed to that environment of protection for women. Let’s work on that.

 

Young mothers and fathers in rural and urban areas need awareness classes on how to ensure their children are protected against sexual abuse. These classes would teach them to create safe environments for their children at home and at school. Safeguarding young children by providing them knowledge about sexual predators in an age-appropriate manner will go a long way to protect them.

 

Church groups and educational institutions can play a relevant role by giving space to discuss safety for both genders. Knowledge is empowerment. Silence is not always golden, because the perpetrator of sexual crimes uses shaming and silencing his victim as his weapon so he can repeat the crime.

 

We have work to do here, but we can do it where there is unity of spirit. In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all our womenfolk out there!

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