Taking stock of 2012 for women and Bengaluru

This past year, women and girl children in the city have been unsafe as before. Here is a quick summary of key developments including what citizens were doing.

The death of the 23-year-old Delhi girl after her gang rape and brutality shook the conscience of the nation, even as more and more stories continue to be reported.

Bengaluru has had its own share of cases involving sexual violence against women and 2012 was no different, indicating that the remains far from safe. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2011, Bangalore had ranked fourth among cities of the country in recorded rape cases.

Early in 2012, C C Patil, Minister for Women and Child Welfare, had advised women to “dress appropriately” so that they do not face sexual harassment. It turned out also that Patil  and Lakshman Savadi also a Karnataka minister, were caught watching a porn clip at an assembly session in February.

In April 2012, a three-month old baby girl Afreen was battered to death by her father. The father reportedly wanted a boy child. Also in April, a woman delivered a baby girl on a road in Bangalore and died. No passerby on the road, or the shopkeeper she met before walking away called 108, which could saved her.

Also in April, a girl gave birth to a baby after being raped by a family acquaintance. Her father had to fight in court to get her school to let her continue her education. The community wanted him to even get the girl married off to the rapist!

Four rape cases in Bengaluru hit the headlines in October 2012. One was that of a law student and the other of three bar girls. Women’s rights groups were quick to demand action in November. In a Citizen Matters article, Padmalatha Ravi pointed out that here too, there was debate about the character and behaviour of the victims and so forth. K K Seethamma, former head of the Women Studies Department at Bangalore University proclaimed, “All we need to do as women is to protect ourselves by wearing good clothes.”

Even in public spaces, abuse occurred frequently. Recently, Swar Thanoujam, a playwright, was allegedly sexually harassed by a mob of 40 men, after a minor road accident and argument.

In the meantime rape and molestation cases continue to emerge in Bengaluru as around the rest of India. Nearly a 100 cases were reported by NCRB in 2011. Bangalore is only next to Delhi in the total number of crimes against women with 1890 cases in 2011. Women’s rights group Vimochana reminded Bangaloreans in December that if molestations, abductions, child sexual abuse, harassment and abuse on the streets, in buses and other public spaces were not even being counted accurately. The actual number could be much higher.  2012’s record is not yet out officially.

With dozens of rape and molestation cases in the city being reported over the year, citizens also became more outspoken. Several events were organised to bring awareness and address the vexing issue.

In May 2012, the annual Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls was held in the city.  It went from the Haji Ismail Sait mosque in Frazer Town to Coles Park. The walk put the focus again on female foeticide and the killing of girls even after birth, such as the baby Afreen incident.

Also in May, a new self-defence training programme was offered to Bangalorean women. Instead of training women in martial arts, this approach uses the Israeli Krav Maga Self Defense system. It teaches women to prevent, escape or avoid molestation, eve-teasing and rape using a system adapted from human reflex actions.

In late December, after the New Delhi incident and the national outrage, Bangaloreans have been organising protests and vigils demanding justice and action from the government till date.

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