Even as we unite in our grief over the death of the anonymous victim of the now-famous Delhi rape case who died yesterday, I don’t think it is too early to be cognizant of the choices in front of us.
We could continue to implement mandatory registration of domestic servants, which effectively assumes that all domestic servants are criminals. We could continue to promote gated communities and private provision of security services. Obviously, a domestic servant who is sexually harassed is not very likely to receive justice in this atmosphere. Or we could recognize that domestic servants are victims of exploitation, and introduce comprehensive legislation to protect their civil, political and socioeconomic rights.
We could continue with the current practice of segregating public transportation facilities through pricing and introduction of luxury buses, while letting the existing buses become even more crowded. Of course, everyone knows that “eve-teasing” is more likely to happen when buses are crowded. Or we could prioritize investments in public transportation for everyone, investing in more plentiful low-fare bus services.
These are the sorts of choices we face as a society. There are those who would like us to think that class (and caste/ethnicity) are not important factors to consider when thinking of responses to the rape. I think they are wrong. Class, caste and ethnicity are deeply implicated in the difficulties that women face when negotiating their daily spaces. Trying to solve the gender problem by ignoring class will only lead to further deprivation for most women.