Hyderabad: Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, a study on women safety in India by Breakthrough, a Delhi-based NGO, stated that 78.4 per cent respondents (female or others) had experienced violence in public spaces. This did not include violence that women experienced while using public transport.
Importantly, 38.5 per cent of the respondents said that they did not intervene because they did not know what to do, said the study, ‘Decoding bystander behaviour’, that was carried out in association with Uber and IKEA.
It covered 721 respondents in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata Hazaribagh district (Jharkhand), Gaya district (Bihar) and Jhajjar district (Haryana).
Most participants, particularly women, identified violence as a broad term, consisting of physical, mental, verbal and sexual abuse. The study highlighted how patriarchal practices were culturally embedded in society and its correlation between deteriorating mental health and everyday misogyny and patriarchy.
The study said that 54.6 per cent respondents had intervened in an incident of violence against women in a public space, 55.3 observed discomfort of the woman facing violence, while 67.7 per cent respondents said that their intervention resulted in the violence stopping.
The study found that the urge to do the “right thing” often drives bystanders to intervene. A handful of respondents revealed that they were victims of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. But they could not resist their perpetrators at that time. It was this unresolved rage at their own helplessness that pushed them to intervene later in their lives. The respondents said that better knowledge and awareness about gender issues also helped them intervene.
Explaining the bystander effect, Dr Rachel Nandi, clinical psychologist with Manasa Nursing Home, Secunderabad, said that the reluctance of people to offer help in case of violence or crisis is due to various reasons, but particularly due to diffusion of responsibility.
“People in a crowd often tend to observe the reaction of others to determine whether or not to help and tell themselves that someone else could help in the situation,” Dr Nandi said. In case of domestic violence, people consider it to be a family issue where others shouldn’t interfere.
According to the study, respondents in Hyderabad said that even though the police had promoted the use of safety apps, these methods tend to function more as reactionary responses to incidents of violence after they have occurred. Moreover, they put the onus of safety on women and girls.
The Hyderabad respondents said that in some cases, like in the case of safety applications, they exclude a large section of the population which does not have access to smartphones. Further, such interventions do not invest in altering mindsets that condone violence against women.
Promoting the need to offer help in case of violence or crisis, DCP East Zone, M. Ramesh said that bystanders should instead of posting videos and photos of a crime and creating a scare among the citizens, use the same as evidence and help the cops by sharing it with them.
“The public can call for an ambulance or the cops but they get scared to get involved. What the public should know is that we have a witness protection scheme if they want to help as a samaritan. We already have CC cameras which help in curbing the crime rate and if the public start becoming more responsible and call dial 100 if they sense danger, we can really control the situation before it gets worse. Sharing posts on social media will also create a sense of fear among the victim's community as they feel that they are being targeted," said the official.
Everyone has a right to intervene and stop a crime under the Good Samaritan Act, or at least call the police by calling 100, a senior police official said. In case a bystander does agree to be an eye-witness, the interrogation will be conducted with respect, at a time and place of the volunteer's choice. They can give their statement in an affidavit, and if required to come to the police station, the official said....