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Millennium Post

Sweeping remark on the shamed city

It is indeed another slap on the face of our much disgraced city. Despite having enforced spruced up laws for ensuring women’s security, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has decided to pull out women sweepers from Delhi’s major arterial roads as a ‘safety measure.’ The civic body has expressed concern, not without reason, and wants its officers to submit compliance reports within two weeks. The corporation, which manages sweeping and garbage collection in four zones spread over most of Delhi, says it was forced to take the precautionary measure because of security complaints from women sweepers themselves. Incidences of snatching, theft, eve teasing, abusing and sexual molestation have been rampant in spite of the bolstered law that is now in place to tackle crimes against women. This is not just a matter of utter embarrassment for the authorities, but also for the city itself, which is still, on the one hand, nursing the wounds of 16 December fatal gang rape and the many cases of sexual assault thereafter, while, on the other, is inflicting the same old regime of violence and intolerance towards women, cutting across the class and caste divides. If women cannot be safe on the streets of the national capital and cannot do their jobs without fear of getting assaulted, mugged or raped, what assurance do women from the rest of the country have in order to continue with their routine work which, more often than not, takes them outside of their domestic confines? And, if they don’t have the government-provided edifice of safety to fall back on, are they supposed to wrap up their respective field jobs and instead opt for ‘softer’ work profiles that require them to stay inside the four walls of residential and office buildings? Furthermore, are those hallowed spaces of rich interior safe as well?

    So, even if the SDMC had to spell out a precautionary measure in the interest of the women sweepers, is it really in their interest? For why should women, whether they be janitors or class executives, accept a systemic apartheid in the professional sector? In what level of ineffectuality does the state exist to be able to so regularly fail in its basic services, which include providing police and penal protection to its citizens, particularly the women? At a time when the Supreme Court has ruled declaring transgenders and eunuchs as the ‘third gender’, indeed accepting the gender gradient and continuum, it seems the larger section of our splintered society is still stuck at the rickety bottom of the gender equanimity ladder. Women, irrespective of their class, caste, religion and marital status, should be granted the assurances of safety, no matter where they are. If the authorities are miserably failing to do the basic minimum in spreading awareness of gender equality and ensuring safety for all, then what has been the point of all the raging debate and spontaneous outpouring of grief that had followed the Delhi gang rape? Nothing at all and that is a disgrace.         

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