The Delhi gang rape has seemingly shaken the nation out of its slumber. Yet, rapes, gang rapes and child rapes continue unabated across the country.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hiding beneath this visible layer are the daily incidents of eve teasing, passing of lewd comments, touching and groping of women, girls and children that are a daily occurrence in most of India.
When the first, second and third lines of defense for citizens, namely, the police, judiciary and the political institutions are apathetic, it is for every woman to protect herself in the manner that she can to control such incidents against herself. We have prepared a list of do’s and don’ts that are a necessary precaution.
Assertiveness and confidence are the pre-requisites for a woman’s safety. Use the 4 Elements of Image Management to project this image.
Clothing and Grooming
Women’s clothing has been the center of comments from people who blame western style clothing for the current incidents of violence against women. But then, it is similar people who talk of banning women from using cell phones. Be that as it may, we are wary of offering advice regarding women’s clothing and hence are sticking to the basics.
- Our advice is that you continue to wear western or Indian clothing, it’s your choice. But make sure that your clothing projects your confidence.
- Wear clothes that fit well, but are not extremely tight. This is the same advice we give to men and women for business, social or personal occasions. It keeps you comfortable and projects your assertiveness and confidence.
- Let your attire and grooming match the occasion and the environment.
Shake off your context since that is often a constraining factor. For every Indian woman who feels emancipated, there are hundreds of others who are prisoners of their cultural context. Free yourself from the way your body reinforces your presumed place in the social hierarchy, as psychologist Dr Deborah Gruenfeld states.
- Keep your body language relaxed, yet powerful. This shows your ease with yourself and your confidence, whatever the location or the environment. Change the way you stand or sit, and you will change the way you feel about yourself.
- Whether you sit, stand or walk, keep your spine erect and your chin up. Don’t slouch. Don’t hunch your shoulders. Square them.
- Don’t sit in tight constricted poses with shoulders hunched, legs together or hands clasped in lap. Keep your elbows on the arms of your chair and not to your sides. If you are travelling, keep your hands loose in your lap in such a way that your shoulders remain square.
- When standing, balance your weight evenly on both feet, keeping them approximately 12 inches apart.
- Keep your heel to a minimum – flats or at most 2-inch heels can you give the confident, powerful gait.
- When walking, swing your arms comfortably.
- Walk with confident, measured steps.
- Don’t make eye contact and smile at the same time with strangers. Don’t smile at them in any case. Also, limit your eye contact with strangers. Men can easily choose to misinterpret its meaning.
- Speak in an authoritative voice without the high pitch.
- The tone must be measured; speech must be slow and well-enunciated.
- Make direct, sustained eye contact when talking to people.
- If a man tries to touch you in any form, tell him loud and clear that it’s not ok with you and ask him to move away or change his place. Do not avoid confrontations when there are people around.
- Avoid confrontations when there are not enough people around.
These precautions are valid as much for strange places as for preventing workplace harassment. They don’t keep you safe all the time, but do the job at least some of the time.