ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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No Safe Spaces

No Safe Spaces

The central issue is patriarchy and power, not private taxi services.

Two years and 10 days apart in the same city, Delhi, a woman is raped, not in a bus but in a private taxi. On 16 December 2012, a 23-year-old woman was brutalised by five men in a moving bus and did not survive. On 6 December 2014, a 27-year-old woman was attacked by the driver of a private taxi she had hired. She managed to record the licence plate of the taxi, went to the police, got a medical examination done and informed her family and friends. Within two days, the driver was apprehended and is being charged. In 2012, there was a massive outcry, demonstrations across the country and demands for justice for women. The government was compelled to respond. The Justice Verma Committee produced in record time an excellent report recommending changes in the law. And as expected, the government cherry-picked the recommendations. Yet, the law was changed and made more stringent. Women perhaps had a false sense of confidence that they would be safer from sexual predators, that a stronger law would be a deterrent. That unreal expectation has once again been shattered.

Compared to 2012, this time the outcry is muted. And the government’s response is predictable – finding a scapegoat, the private taxi provider. The media has also been obsessed with the lack of regulation governing the new breed of app-based services linking customers and private taxis. In this fog of noise from the media, officials and the public, the central issue as always has been forgotten. And this remains what it was in 2012: that there are no safe spaces for women. For even as the rape of a young woman by a stranger catches media and public attention, we need to be constantly reminded of the grim fact that 90% of rapes take place within homes, in neighbourhoods and by men known to the survivor. That fact, however, is no reason not to demand justice and action in this particular case. But in the rush to find someone to blame, the government has found it a little too easy to pick on private taxi aggregators. As a result, the central issues surrounding women’s safety have been left unaddressed.

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