Monday, October 6, 2008

A city unsafe

A couple of days back, 25-year old Soumya Vishwanathan, was found dead with a bullet in her head. That the T.V. journalist was killed in cold blood in the middle of the Capital city was was tragic enough, but what made it worse was the Chief Minister’s reaction to the tragedy – “All by herself till 3 am at night in a city where people should not be so adventurous.”
I cannot even start to make sense of the Chief Minister's remarks. Sowmya Vishwanathan was in a profession that required people to work erratic hours, and the hour at which she was returnign home was not an uncommon one for media professionals. Sowmya Vishwanathan had not been 'asking for trouble' by keeping erratic hours - if she was asking for trouble, it was by being a contciencious journalist and asking uncomfortable questions.
Rather than apologise for the breakdown in law and order in her state, the Chief Minister (a female herself) chose to cast aspersions on the character of a young professional about whom she knows practically nothing. Is a man asking for trouble when he returns home from work at 3 am? No, he is lauded for being a thorough professional who is willing to work long hours. Why then these double standards when it comes to women?
True, you rarely find women out on the streets of Delhi after dinnertime. In Mumbai, I have cheerfully taken the last train home, without stopping to think if it were safe to do so or not, but in Delhi the first time I asked someone to drop me off a two minute walk away from home was also the last time I did so. Six years back, it was apparently a cardinal sin for a single woman to be wandering around the streets of Delhi even at 10 pm. Judging by Shiela Dixit's reaction, it still is.
And I wonder why it is so – is the prevailing attitude present because the city is unsafe for women, or is the city unsafe for women because of the prevailing attitude that it is? And is there a solution, apart from the one where all working women just move out of the city?

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