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Why Indian Women Must Take Responsibility For Their Own Safety

By Priya Florence Shah

I’m going to take a somewhat controversial stance in this article. I may get attacked for my views, but I see this whole fracas between men and women as a consequence of the breakdown of communication and the growth of a whole lot of assumptions.

“To Assume = To Make an Ass of You and Me” and that applies to most relationships. When we assume too much, it leads to a breakdown in communication and to a whole lot of misunderstanding.

Woman Self DefenseSo what does that have to do with recurring violence against women and the uproar of women feeling misunderstood and shortchanged in Indian society?

It’s largely the fact that women are assuming one thing about men – that Indian men have changed to accept women’s liberated attitudes. They have not.

And the fact that men are assuming that Indian women have remained the same and are still willing to accept patriarchal diktats. They are not.

And so we have a clash of mindsets. Patriarchy versus liberated women. And who is winning? No one.

I think it’s time to get realistic. And to accept that little has actually changed. Yes, this is me. The woman who endorses empowerment and strength.

The mother who hopes that her daughter will grow up in a more enlightened world. I suggest we get real and accept that Indian society is facing a clash of two worlds.

A world that believes women should be independent and empowered versus a world that believes otherwise. And this is not a women versus men thing.

Just as many men believe in empowering women, as many women exist that take comfort in being dependent, and encouraging other women to do the same.

So I believe that it’s time to take stock of where we are, as a society divided in its attitudes. Where regressive and progressive still coexist. Where progressive women must empower themselves to deal with regressive attitudes. Where regressive men must be prevented, by law, from imposing their views (and their persons) forcibly on women they perceive as wanton.

Until then, women need to be concerned for their own safety. Depending on the police to do that for you is not realistic. Even developed nations have not reached a stage where women can walk safely alone at night without being attacked. The only thing that works better in developed nations is that law-breakers are more quickly convicted.

So until we can create a kinder, more equitable society for ourselves and our children, let’s take responsibility for our own safety. Teach your daughters how to avoid getting into potentially unsafe situations.

Instead of having unrealistic expectations that men and law enforcers will act in your interest, learn to trust your instincts and know when it is safe and not safe. A wise guideline I once heard is, if you don’t want to slip, don’t go to slippery places.

Don’t assume that all men will be protectors. Make space for the possibility that there are predators everywhere, even in our homes. And continue to campaign for stronger laws, quicker convictions and any measures that will give men the incentive not to attack women or view us as weaker creatures.

Being empowered does not mean that you go out and tempt fate or that you do things no one in their right mind would do just to prove a point. Neither am I trying to excuse those who attack women. I mean to highlight the fact that no one is else is more concerned for your security than you are.


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