https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/ ... ark-194708
Shot in the dark
Dec 20, 2017 00:00 IST
Concern for the safety of women is always desirable, but shooting from the hip is not. And yet, that is exactly what the government of Madhya Pradesh seems to have done. In a rather ill-considered move, the state women and child welfare minister, Archana Chitnis, has sent a proposal to the state home ministry to speed up the granting of gun licences to women, including survivors of rape, when they apply for it. On the face of it, this might not seem like such a bad idea; Indian women face sexual violence every day, and many find it difficult to get justice or security even now. Now, with a firearm at their disposal, survivors might be able to defend themselves against further harassment or attacks. That is indeed the logic employed by Ms Chitnis, who said that having a gun will give rape survivors a sense of confidence.
But is that really the aim of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the state? Given that the assembly elections are slated to be held next year, the dispensation has been doing everything in its power to build a voter base out of the state's women while also trying to hide its miserable failure to ensure their safety. Earlier this year, at a mass wedding, the state's rural development minister, Gopal Bhargava, gifted wooden bats to about 700 new brides to use in self-defence if their husbands turned violent under the influence of alcohol. This, along with the move to expedite the granting of gun licences to women, is no more than an attempt to camouflage the emptiness of the government's rhetoric about women's security. Owning a licensed firearm in Madhya Pradesh is a matter of great pride; by making it easier to acquire one, the government is only perpetuating the toxic idea of violence being an effective way to combat crimes. Ms Chitnis's proposal also ignores practical concerns; for example, granting a rape survivor the right to carry a gun also opens up the possibility of the men in her family taking it away from her and using it themselves. Further gun violence is the last thing that is required in Madhya Pradesh, where law and order is already in a shambles. Instead of educating men about the total unacceptability of gender-based violence, the government is arming women with guns. By doing so, it is merely telling them that they are responsible for their own security, when it is actually the State's job to keep them safe.