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In the last few decades, reports of violence against women in Indian cities have been alarmingly on the rise. While certain cases of sexual violence in cities have caused significant public outrage and sparked a conversation about women’s safety in India, sexual violence of varying degrees still seems to be a standard feature in the city for most women.
Meanwhile, we have seen different measures undertaken to address women’s safety that not only seem ineffective but exacerbate existing problems. These range from advocating capital punishment for rape, increased surveillance in public spaces, to extreme use of police force in certain cases – a recent instance of encounter killings of alleged rapists in Hyderabad comes to mind.
It seems pertinent to think of solutions to address not only what occurs after an incident of sexual violence but to proactively engage with preventive steps that can reduce the risk of sexual violence for women in the city. This would include not only issues of law and policing, but also issues of physical and social infrastructure, the ways in which identities of class, caste, gender and sexuality among others render some women more vulnerable to violence, and finally, looking at the city itself and the way it’s structured that impacts women.
In this developing context of increasing safety concerns of women in cities, it is crucial that safety in urban spaces and gender inclusion be addressed together, in looking for approaches that make women safer. It is essential to address causes of violence against women in a systemic way, while ensuring women’s autonomy and tying women’s initiative with local governance and other key stakeholders, to influence public policy to suit women’s needs.
In this panel, we hope to look at the different forms of violence women encounter in the city, the underlying causes – from interpersonal to infrastructural – that contribute to gendered violence and the challenges involved in securing justice for women in the city.
This panel discussion is part of the public engagement initiative, Bengaluru Solutions Series on urban issues in the city, anchored by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and Citizen Matters.
S T Ramesh
Dr S T Ramesh joined the Indian Police Service in 1976 and served in the state of Karnataka and the Government of India for 35 years in many sensitive positions. As head of the Karnataka Prisons Department, he brought about many human rights centric reforms and progressives changes. In the police service, he introduced many innovations, reforms and technology. He paid special attention to gender sensitisation and training of police personnel. After retiring from the post of Director General and Inspector General of Police, Karnataka, he has been a public commentator on matters relating to police and has been associated with a few NGOs.
Akkai Padmashali is a social activist and founder of Ondede, an organization advocating for and seeking to link social movements for the rights of children, women and sexual minorities. For her work in activism, she has received the Rajyotsava Prashasti, the second highest civilian honor of the state of Karnataka, and an honorary doctorate from the Indian Virtual University for Peace and Education.
Rathna Isaac (PhD in Clinical Psychology) completed her training in NIMHANS, in 2005, with a thesis on Marital Therapy with Distressed Couples. She subsequently held teaching positions in Bangalore University and Montfort College, and was Junior Scientific Officer at NIMHANS from September 2006 to March 2009.
She is a therapist, supervisor and trainer with around 20 years of experience. She is an external consultant/supervisor for the Couple and Family Therapy Programme at Parivarthan Counselling and Training Center. She has created and conducted both basic and advanced training programmes on couple therapy and provides ongoing group supervision for couple counselors.
She has conducted several training workshops for counsellors/psychotherapists at all levels and is deeply interested in the psychotherapy process. She has also conducted workshops for lay people on topics like gender, relationships, parenting and aging.
She has published papers and book chapters in the areas of couple relationships, ethical issues and psychotherapy. A 12 episode video column for the White Swan Foundation on “Navigating Relationships” is currently running on YouTube.
Dhanya is a journalist who began her career with India Vision and The New Indian Express. She had joined the English news channel, Times Now before its launch and was the channel’s South India Bureau Chief. In 2014, she co-founded The News Minute, an independent digital news platform and currently, serves as its Editor-in-Chief. With more than 15 years’ experience in print, television and digital journalism, Dhanya has reported from the ground on some of the biggest stories in India in the past decade.
Sneha Visakha is a Research Fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Karnataka. Her areas of research include urban development, municipal governance and feminist urbanism. She is a 2015 law graduate from ILS Law College, Pune and pursued a postgraduate diploma in liberal studies from Ashoka University. She has previously worked at the Chairman’s office, Quality Council of India on projects with the Ministry of Petroleum and Ministry of Railways, and at the Hyderabad Urban Lab, where she researched legal and policy aspects of urban heritage conservation.