After the whole TVF fiasco, there is a question mark on the safety conditions for women at workplaces. Time and again, we hear of cases like rape, sexual assault and that proves how badly the laws in India should be made, more stringent.
While we all know about the Nirbhaya Act, which came in scene after the horrific 2012 Delhi gangrape incident, very few know about the woman who was behind the guidelines to deal with the sexual harassment at workplace. And that too, in 1997.
Bhanwari Devi, a resident of Bhateri Village in Jaipur was gang raped by her upper-caste neighbours when she was working in her field along with her husband. Her only crime was that she tried to prevent the marriage of a nine-month-old Gujjar girl.
Bhanwari, since 1985, used to work with the State Government’s Women Development Programme.
“Her job involved going door-to-door in the village, campaigning against social ills - she would tell women about hygiene, family planning, the benefits of sending their daughters to school, and she would discourage female foeticide, infanticide, dowry and child-marriages.
Rajasthan has a huge tradition of child marriages and thousands of children, many just months old, are married off every year.
Bhanwari Devi herself was a child bride - she told me she had been married when she was five or six and her husband was eight or nine.
Her campaign against child marriage was not an attempt to challenge patriarchy or fight the feudal mindset, but she was just doing her job,” says the BBC article.
The publication visited Bhanwari Devi in her village in Rajasthan.
The women activists in and around Jaipur protested against this heinous crime and demanded strict action against the rapists.
After interference by the local media, all the accused were charged. The court proceedings were not smooth, either. Bhanwari had to go through to mudslinging of the worst form.
This led to a nationwide protest and women activist from Jaipur and Delhi demanded safety at workplaces for women. This led to the implementation of the iconic Vishakha guidelines.
“It was a revolutionary judgement based on the fundamental rights of women. And the guidelines later became the basis for a 2013 law passed by the Indian parliament to prevent sexual harassment of women at the workplace,” the article adds.
It’s been more than 25 years, Bhanwari has won awards for her courage but she still awaits justice. What’s worse is that she still lives in the same village as her rapists.
Information and Title Image Source: BBC