So last week, a call center worker in Bangalore was raped and killed by the driver of the car that dropped her at home every day. Presumably, it was a crime of opportunity -- she was alone in the vehicle and he took the chance to act inappropriately.
Now the BPO industry is up in arms, with protests in Bangalore and meetings set to broach the dilemma. The question on everyone's minds seems to be one of gender: With all these young women entering the work force, how do we ensure that they are able to navigate cities safely?
The solutions, thus far, are ridiculous. Take, for example, a quot by police commissioner Ajay Kumar Singh:
"We have called a meeting of the BPO representatives on December 20. We intend to suggest that women employees should not be picked up first and dropped last. There should be a male employee in the vehicle when women are picked or dropped. In cases where only women employees are present, we suggest a security guard in the vehicle."
Here, the police commissioner is assigning blame to the entire industry that supports workers in cushy call center jobs, as if every driver is a threat by merit of possessing a license.
How could they be so stupid?
This is the exception, not the rule. One man perpetrated a crime. Certainly, there should be more support for women traveling to and from the office. But sticking more men in a car is not the answer. What if the male employee is a rapist? What of the security guard?
Perhaps the logic is that having more people in the car is a social deterrent -- rape being, of course, an extreme taboo. But are there not stories of gang rapes every other day in the newspaper? This is a non-solution, a token gesture that speaks not to progress but to patriarchy.
It seems to me that companies should shoulder the burden of arming women traveling alone with the ability to defend themselves. Have a company hotline to which an SOS SMS can be sent. Institute a policy wherein each employee is called to ensure that they have reached home safely. Create a self-defense course for women to take before and after work. Give employees pepper-spray key chains.
Just do something a bit more constructive.