MP CM wants to track women for their safety

Restriction on women & mockery of safety: Women of MP

Society

January 17, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

MP CM wants to track women for their safety

Women in Madhya Pradesh are up in arm's against Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s latest proposal (Photo credit: PTI)

Known for his bizarre ideas, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s latest proposal that working women should be registered with police stations for their safety attracts protests as women feel it would be direct attack on their privacy and also put more restrictions on their lives, besides bringing in elements of victim blaming.

“Why does this government not develop a tracking app that keeps a track of what their ministers say every few days? Tracking women is just another way to restrict their movement. I am sure that our chief minister has no idea about how ridiculous he sounds while saying that tracking women will ensure safety,” 33-year-old Shweta Roy, a fashion designer in Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal, tells Media India Group.

“I go out of my house every day to work. I work as house-maid at three different places. I travel using public transport daily. I do not understand how will their tracking ensure safety for me if I get beaten up by my husband at home or even if something happens to me in a bus while travelling. And above all, why should I, a woman in my 40s, be obliged to inform someone where am I going every minute of the day,” asks Komal Devi, a 44-year-old house-help who works at Roy’s house.

Roy and Devi are angry about Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s comment that the state will implement a new system wherein women moving out of their house for work will register themselves at their local police stations, following which they will be tracked for safety. He further said that the government will introduce measures like panic buttons and helpline numbers to ensure women are protected.

This came on the heels of an awareness programme named ‘Samman’, a fortnight-long awareness programme for a crime against women. While his another proposal, to raise the minimum marriageable age for women from 18 years to 21 years received praise, the idea of tracking women replaced bouquets with brickbats.

Attack on privacy

The women say that tracking any individual is a breach of privacy and the CM’s comments have been met with outrage and not only from women. Some fear that if such measures come into place, women’s freedom will seriously be jeopardised, with someone keeping tabs on their movements and whereabouts all the time. The women say that the government should focus on making the streets safer for women rather than locking them up indoors.

“Has the honourable CM lost all respect for the constitution and for privacy! Why not just put chips in the girl and have them linked to satellite beaming in the government surveillance room!” says 22-year-old Meher Khan, an engineering student at Gwalior’s ITM university.

“What makes it an even more half-baked idea is that it is supposedly only concerned about the safety of women moving for work. What about the million other women who walk on roads and through by-lanes and roam in public spaces? How will this law take those women into account? Will it track all the women of the state? What if a woman, who is travelling not for work but for recreation, faces an ordeal of harassment? How will the situation be handled?” she asks.

Increased risk of victim-blaming

Many women feel that the idea would simply reinforce the traditional Indian societal practice of victim shaming and victim blaming, as happens often in cases of crimes against women. “This puts the onus of ensuring women safety on the woman herself. Why do not men register themselves and be tracked? Tomorrow if something happens to a woman, they will be the first ones to say that the victim did not register herself and where she is going to, in local police station and that is why she is to be blamed for crimes committed against her,” says Roy.

Like Roy and Khan, a group of school students from Bhopal’s DPS school say that the introduction of such a law by Chouhan’s administration will lay claim to women’s bodies as the property of men meant to be protected – a patriarchal notion that has contributed to the oppression of women for ages together. It will create a dangerously bigger space for victim-blaming.

“Would such legislation not give precedence to the circumstances of the crime – perhaps including what the woman was wearing, where she was, what she was doing at the time of attack – instead of pinning the blame solely on the criminal, as should be the case,” asks Adhinayak Mukherjee, a 16-year-old student of the school.

A ‘women-friendly CM’

Devi explains that Chouhan has an image of being a women-friendly chief minister. He gave himself the sobriquet mamaji (maternal uncle) after he introduced the Ladli Laxmi Scheme in 2006.

Chouhan is also hailed for implementing 50 pc reservation for women in local body polls and 30 pc reservation in police recruitment. He was the first to introduce a gender budget as a separate budget that is passed separately in the assembly.

However, the sheen is rapidly wearing off as the women in MP feel that the focus has now shifted to controlling women instead of controlling crimes against them. This is not the first time that Chouhan has proposed an idea, in the name of ensuring woman safety, that has left people of MP wondering about the logic and common sense behind the party in power and their members’ statements.

In his last tenure as chief minister, Chouhan had directed officials to worship and wash the feet of minor girls before any government event. The practice was discontinued when the Congress government of Kamal Nath took over. In December 2020 again, the MP CM had issues a fresh circular stating that Kanya Pujan (a Hindu ritual of worshipping girls) should be compulsory before every government-organised event, claiming that it would ensure that women empowerment in the state.

“Someone should just tell him that just because he calls himself mamaji, does not mean that he can say anything and the public will agree to it. This makes absolutely no sense. If he counts Kanya Pujan as a step that he has taken towards women empowerment, I do not know what to say,” says Devi who worked at Roy’s.

Increasing disbelief in government

In his speech on the occasion when he spoke of tracking women for their safety, Chouhan had also claimed that incidents of rape have reduced by 19 pc in the state, kidnapping by 23 pc, female foeticide by 20 pc and sexual harassment by 14 pc. He further added that around 7,000 missing women were found by police. However, no such data is available in public domain and the women say they don’t feel any safer.

“Now that you have heard all that he says, it is difficult to take him seriously or believe him when he presents data on women safety,” adds Khan.

“Even if for a moment, I believe the government, this thread of positive change should be taken forward with stricter laws against perpetrators and a robust safety system in place. The proposed law of tracking women instead only beckons a backward journey, where an invasion of privacy and a saviour complex threatens to become the norm,” fashioner designer Roy says.

“Well, what else do you expect? You elected a clown, now watch the circus,” she adds.

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