This is the “women in trouble” fortnight.
Two days ago, a security company that provides in-home alarm devices sent an email with the header “Ladies, this city is no longer safe”, in an attempt to scare their target audience into buying their products.
Last week, I received an email from a subscriber to my email list asking me to remove her name unless I was going to talk about “injustice to women, children because of rape…how it would be better to castrate the men instead of sending them to prisons…also how to prevent models exposing their bodies and tempting men…”, etc.
Earlier this week, an editorial in a major daily had someone actually say that given our conservative culture and overpopulation, seeing couples indulging in public displays of affection, will obviously lead to a buildup of sexual frustration among men and thus an increase in sex-related crimes.
Mr. Narendra Modi passed an inappropriate remark against Mr. Shashi Tharoor’s wife. A film-maker threw acid on a girl. A cat burglar raped a Spanish woman. A few old women living alone in their homes were robbed and killed. A young lawyer was raped and then killed outside her apartment in a building complex.
Suddenly it looks like the crime-rate, especially against women, has spiraled out of control women and the elderly being easy targets.
But, I wonder if too much is being made of a series of isolated incidents that have occurred in quick succession. Given the fact that newspapers and news-channels play up every issue of even the remotest interest to their readers and viewers and that incidents involving physical and verbal assaults, especially against women, have an incredibly high voyeuristic potential, perhaps all that is happening these days, is that more and more such incidents that have always been occurring around us, are now coming to the surface.
I don’t have hard facts and figures, but it is not as if the crime rate per se has suddenly shot up as compared to earlier years. In fact, living in Mumbai, we should consider ourselves fortunate that we don’t have violent street-crime dogging us through the day and night, the way it affects daily life in places like Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo or for that matter certain parts of downtown metros in the US. No gun-point or knife-point mugging, no gang warfare among youths of various ethnicities or nationalities and no needless regular kidnappings and killings.
Women (and men) can still safely drive at night, walk most streets in Mumbai and even go for a run at 4.00AM in the morning. Among a cross-section of women that I casually asked this question to, while everyone is perturbed in general over the extent of news coverage that is creating this aura of lawlessness, on a personal, individual level, there is no real sense of being scared or afraid or insecure.
Here is what I am trying to say! There is a certain level of crime in the city. It has its crests and trough around a certain mean. Women and the elderly are and have always been part of the target population. There is however no hard data that there is a sudden major spurt. The vast majority of perpetrators are people known to, or related to the victims, which goes against the claim that there is a sudden increase in random, vicious crime. The city is as safe as it was and will be. What we don’t need is security companies and the media whipping up hysteria because it serves their self-interest!