VULNERABLE

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We boast of being the first country in the world to have a woman president. This country has seen ministers like Indra Gandhi. We say we have a glorious past and a bright future. We say we are on the road to development. We are proud of our excellent infra-structure yet the country’s women cannot find a safe place to answer the call of nature.

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You may stop reading the article or just side line the thought but as you do this there are woman every hour facing the constant threat to life even when they are performing the basic activities of their daily life. They feel vulnerable every moment. They are not supposed to go alone always accompanied by one of their female friends. This not only paralyzes their free movement but also hinders their independence. For they have to depend on someone all the time in dearth of facilities which they deserve as women and also as human beings.

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Few people discuss this issue as it is one of those jobs that many would not consider to take. What happened at Badaun is not the first incident of its kind.  There have been many unreported incidences before and continue to happen even as we talk of it today. It was not just the Dalit girls who have been raped and hanged but it marks the death of any hope that the government will improve the state of lawlessness that the society faces today. After that there can be no hope that women will get the rights they deserve.

There are various issues that women face in this country such as dowry, female foeticide, marital rape etc.  But what makes this issue different from the others? One difference perhaps is that this time people cannot blame that girls were not properly dressed or why were they wandering late at night, right? After all one has the right to answer to the call of nature anytime. Moreover it is not limited to sexual abuse but also exposes the caste division in the country.

What can we expect of a government that delivers public statements like “boys will be boys”. According to such a government every girl should accept rape and sexual abuse as a daily routine and make it a part of her lifestyle because boys must not be taught how to control their lust. This would mean that boys are meant to rape any woman and every woman they can get their hands on. Why is this, the accepted definition of “boys”?

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It is this mentality that puts restrictions on a girl and allows the boys to wander freely and prey on any girl they like. A rape is followed by a series of protests and agitation but seldom yields any long time result. The voices are silenced by force or die due to starvation of hope.

This case is not something that must suffer a similar fate. The case could have been prevented had there been proper sanitation facilities. The solution to other problems that women face may be difficult and require a lot of administrative changes but the solution to this one crime is right here before our own eyes. Although there are several pay and use toilets that are being constructed still their proper maintenance is important to make them capable of being used. There have been complaints that many of these toilets do not function and are closed. It is not only about women living in rural areas but even those who travel long distances via buses feel the dearth of proper sanitation facility along the route.

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Besides making the daily activities unhygienic for a woman and exposing them to infection of all sorts, this lack of proper sanitation facilities also makes them vulnerable to such crimes. Hence the incident throws light on how important such facilities are in a woman’s daily routine.

One of the reasons that no one wants to take the charge is that we have been used to the idea of someone else cleaning away our mess for us. We cannot think of cleaning our own toilets. “Do not take money from the sweeper or shake hands with them. They are dirty and may cause infection.  Stay away…..!” a very common advice by our parents that most of us have heard when we were young. Seldom do we think that it’s our mess these people clean and that they are also human beings like us. Somebody has to take charge, come forward and take initiatives.

Today this issue has risen above the everyday issue of human welfare. It no longer is just about a healthy and a hygienic lifestyle, it has gone to an altogether different level. This lack of facilities is costing the women their life and respect and it’s time to take serious action against it. We can never be truly developed until we take women along. However the question we must ask ourselves is that, can any country ever be called developed when the women are devoid of such basic rights?

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