By India Commentary
A working woman alighted from a bus near her home in Kolkata on Independence Day at about 11.30 in the night. She was returning from work. Two persons on a bike accosted, abused and hit her for coming home so late and working on a holiday. She was not dressed ‘provocatively.’ A cop and other local people were standing nearby but did not intervene.
Kolkata is relatively a safe city for women. But lately, some self-appointed guardians of society have been raising questions about the attire, behavior and working hours of women. In the instant case, the men were obviously drunk and their intentions were probably not to prevent social degradation.
How are people from the locality concerned if a woman returns home late at night unless she is accompanied by others who create a nuisance in the locality? Pesky neighbours have always been there but this ‘local people’ scenario is fast emerging as a new challenge to the freedom of women.
The woman could have been late for a number of reasons. Independence Day being a holiday, public transport thins in late evening. Buses and taxis are sparse. She could have been stuck in a meeting. She did not have a drop-off facility from her company. Working hours for all employees are now very flexible and can easily extend late into the evening.
Although it is very difficult for the police to monitor each and every lane and by-lane at night with limited resources, the attitude of the cop who chose to remain a bystander during the assault is inexplicable and has come under the scanner.
Women face plenty of harassment at the workplace. If they are harassed for coming home late in their own locality some of them will feel threatened enough to leave their jobs. Not all women or their families are strong enough to fight louts. Society has to accept that working women can sometimes be late and come home from work at odd hours. It has to prevent louts and other self-appointed guardians from harassing such women. If this is not done, the already woeful percentage of working women will drop further.