Earlier this week, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the minimum marriageable age for women should be raised from 18 to 21.
The statement came in line after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a similar stance while addressing the nation on the 74th Independence day, where he had stated that the central government has constituted a committee formed by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to look into the minimum age of marriage for women.
Inaugurating a fortnight-long awareness programme for crimes against women called ‘Samman’, the aim of which is to create a safe and secure atmosphere which ensures dignity to all women.
“Our campaign is a campaign to change the attitude and mentality of the society. The work of ensuring safety and respect for daughters is not only of government and police, but it requires a change in the mentality of the society. The attitude where all wrongdoings of sons are condoned but multiple restrictions are put on the daughters and daughters are held guilty for any crime against them has to change,” said the chief minister.
However, what came in as a shock was the statement that followed. The MP CM went on to tell about his idea of a new system to be put in place which will be used to safeguard working women in the state. Any woman moving out of her house for her work will register herself at the local police station, and she will be tracked for her safety. In case of distress, a helpline number will be provided to such women, enabling them to call for help. The installation of panic buttons in public transportation will be made compulsory.
But this ‘safety’ measure, of course, didn’t go well with netizens.
What’s next? Putting a curfew? Women should be back in house by 8 pm. For their own safety. Ghar ko bhi hostel bna do.
— Ratnajee Shyamkunwar (@RickyAShyamkuwr) January 13, 2021
I have many issues here. One – why is the program called "saaman". Again, we equate women with maryada of the house etc robbing her safety and personal worth. Two – why track women? Can't they maintain a list of sexual offenders, install CCTV, make better infrastructure(1/2) https://t.co/rZaRcRpmIe
— Sunitha (@Sunithablogger) January 13, 2021
Tracking any individual is inherently a breach of their privacy. Moreover, the system would further perpetuate the notion that it is women who need to safeguard themselves by taking extreme measures instead of preventing offenders from committing such heinous acts in the first place. This kind of surveillance would only curb a woman’s bodily authority and freedom. Besides, if something does go wrong with the women who choose not to register themselves, thus preventing them from being tracked will be blamed for their actions. The authorities could simply refrain from taking responsibility since the woman didn’t allow them to track her for her ‘safety’.
Among the many alternatives suggested by people, one Twitter user @ks_NotANiceGirl tweeted “Why not track every man moving out of his house, register them at the local police station & track them for committing a crime against women?” The system can also easily become one of the many ways to harass women, thus defeating its entire purpose, in the first place.
Might I suggest another way to do this:
Why not track every man moving out of his house, register them at the local police station & track them for committing crime against women? https://t.co/ZVlpvLlwO1
— Just A Citizen (@ks_NotANiceGirl) January 13, 2021
In the past nine months, incidents of rape have gone down by 19 per cent in the state, while kidnapping has reduced by 23 per cent, female foeticide by 20 per cent and sexual harassment by 14 per cent, the MP CM said. He further added that around 7,000 missing women were found by police.
Although the intentions of the CM may not be completely misguided, one needs to ponder upon the fact that if this was the only solution left at hand.