Safety at the cost of taking away the autonomy
“I wonder why my parents ask me for my location? They say that they care for my safety. I wonder if they really do. I have a brother too, and they never asked him for his location, don’t they care about his safety? Can nothing happen to him? I do consider that women are more vulnerable to crimes, especially in a city like Delhi, yet, I am an adult, I wonder if they care about my safety and that is why to ask me to share the location, or if they are wanting to keep an eye on me as I am a woman?” – Neha, 23.
Do you wonder why parents or guardians, and even husbands for that matter think of asking for their girlchild’s or wife’s location? I have seen several girls, who are probably in their late teens or have been in adulthood complaining and feeling odd when their parents ask about their location whenever they go out. Many of them said that they feel safe about me when they know where I am, but then in return, the girls felt being watched at. The fact that they are girls (women) perhaps makes them feel that there is a risk in going out without precaution (which is sharing location here) but what it seems to be like is a wrong enough trap that enforces gender stereotypes, and takes away the autonomy of women. There can be times when she would like to go out just on her own, but doing this is not really possible for her because someone is watching her.
“My husband asks me to share my location the minute I step out. I am an adult, you truly love my father but I sometimes fail to understand his logic behind asking my location. Is he interested in knowing if I am safe or not or knowing where am I going? Can just knowing my whereabouts to be a factor with which they could know if I am safe? And even if they have my location, can that be a guarantee that I am safe. Well, being a grown-up, I do have things that are personal to me, and maybe I am to go somewhere I would not like to tell my parents about. They, keeping a track of my location only makes me feel trapped by them. That someone is watching me, someone looking at me, taking away my autonomy to be the I want to be.” – J, 29.
Doesn’t it sound like stalking? Doesn’t it sound like someone is entering your privacy? Doesn’t it feel like being trapped?
Well, maybe these are the extreme terms we have used and are maybe questioning the care that the parents/ husbands have for the women around them, but is it any less than taking away their right to choose for themselves. Surveillance monitoring their location is merely a small step indicating taking away a woman’s autonomy.
Is it making women feel that they can’t take care of themselves?
Well, it would be wrong to generalize this statement, but in many cases, especially in families that have patriarchy deeply rooted, they subtle notion that women are often dumb, innocent, an easy target, and hence can’t take care of themselves is provoking them to ask women to share their location.
In conclusion, well, if safety is the argument, there are many other ways in which it can be ensured apart from just taking the location. Learning self-defence tricks, keeping pepper spray and gadgets for self-defence handy, marking out the emergency numbers, and keeping the mobile set in a manner that, that number can be dialled easily in an emergency. Preparing the person for their own safety is altogether a better option than just monitoring them and their whereabouts.
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