A Retrograde Move

This is not only regressive but absolutely ridiculous as well. The Karnataka Government in an absurd move has decided to shift the burden of law and order in the state to the women. The government seems to think that crimes against women have gone up in the state as a result of more and more women working late nights in different sectors and industries. And the solution, the government believes, is in not allowing women to work late nights. Result: A government order banning women from working in night shifts. Essentially, women employees have to now either convince their employers to let them work during the morning hours or quit jobs and stay at home! And all because the government cannot ensure what should have been their fundamental duty - safety and security of all citizens in the state by maintaining law and order. Labour Minister Iqbal Ansari goes on record saying: "I am sure the legislation will come to the aid of lakhs of helpless working women and will be treated as a measure to protect them". That is right, Sir - you cannot provide safe working conditions for women in the state. So just lock them up in the four walls of the house!!!

When I first read this news I just couldn't believe it. I found it incredulous that in this day and age when women are making strides in every field and carving a niche for themselves, someone would even think up of something like this. The move is likely to put thousands and thousands of women, some of them sole breadwinners of the family, out of employment. Did the government even think about the same? The ban is not only discriminative but against the Indian Constitution as well. Firstly, Article 14 of the Constitution which states that all citizens are equal in the name of the law, while Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits "discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth". The Karnataka government's legislature is clearly invidious to women. Why don't we just ban everybody from working after 8 pm? It isn't as though men are never victims of any crime against them? So as per the government's logic banning everybody from working after 8 pm should immediately solve the entire law and order problem and make the state utopia on earth, isn't it?

Article 16 of the Constitution clearly states, "No citizen shall, on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment". Somebody should clearly ask the Labour Minister and the government of Karnataka to re-read the Constitution. And if they have a problem comprehending it, I am sure there are many soon-to-be-unemployed women out there who can lend a helping hand. "No citizen shall, on grounds of ..... sex...., be .... discriminated against in respect of any employment..." - does the government even understand what this exactly means?

And finally, Article 19 of the Constitution which clearly spells out that "All citizens have the right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business". Clearly, the Karnataka government does not consider the women in the state to be "citizens" of the country. Its reading of this clause in Article 19 is without doubt this - it is the men in the country who can chose to practice any profession or any occupation. What women will do or when they should work we will control.

What is even more absurd is the exclusion of certain segments from this ban. From what I can remember a majority of crimes - of rape and murder - committed in the last few months have been against those women employed in IT and ITES industries, which have been ironically excluded from the ban. The government seems to either view these sectors to be absolutely safe for women or considers that the women employees in these sectors do not deserve any protection.

In recent times we have seen this happen a lot - women are teased, molested and raped by men, and they are told the blame still squarely rests with them. "Look at the dress she was wearing. She was clearly asking for it", has been an oft-heard remark. Don't you see, men are perfect, incapable of any wrong. It is always the women who is to blame. Men don't slip; it is the women who push them over the edge by wearing "revealing" clothes and "inviting" everything that happens to them. So, what should one do? Stop women from donning clothes she desires to wear. Just like the Karnataka government believes that it is the women's fault that more and more crimes are being committed against them. Aren't they the ones out there, working in the nights? So, lets just restrict their mobility and freedom; this is sure to ensure that they are much safer.

If the problem is law and order would you take action against the wrongdoers or the victims? Would you let the culprits go scotfree while those victimized are locked up in a virtual prison? What makes one assume that in days of yore when women were not as widely employed there were absolutely no crimes against women? Isn't providing safety for all citizens, and not the men alone, the duty of any government? Isn't it the government's responsibility to ensure that all its citizens, including women, are given equal opportunities, rights and freedom without being discriminated against?

If protecting women against all crimes is the prime motivation of such a legislature, I have an even simpler answer to the problem: Assuming men are the perpetrators of these crimes against women, why don't we just ban men from working or even being seen outside the houses after 8 pm, and let women continue to be employed?


More by :  Yamini Ayyagari

Top | Women

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