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Aruna Shanbaug and workplace safety for women: the real issue sidestepped

Sreelekha Nair

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2016.010


Aruna Shanbaug (born 1948) passed away on May 18, 2015 and the coverage that the news got on the front pages and the primetime news slots surprised everyone. One wonders whether this news would have got so much coverage had it not involved the sensational euthanasia debate. That Aruna should have been projected as the face of the euthanasia debate in India disturbs those who have been following her “story”. The fact remains that it was a debate set off by Pinki Virani – for people like Aruna – with due respect to the former’s earnest intentions and efforts. That Aruna was subjected to violence in November 1973 was nothing but the potential experience of every working woman in India. Aruna should be remembered for that reason – a cause much more bitter than passive euthanasia. She has been and will remain the face of working women in India against whom male prejudice has remained unabated even 42 years after Aruna became a victim. How many Arunas were assaulted, murdered and violated physically, emotionally and mentally during this period? To a substantial number of Indians, women still belong to the hearth and the harem, and the rapist of the Delhi girl whom we nicknamed Nirbhaya told us this impudently from within the Tihar jail in Delhii. India as a society seems to refuse to recognise the ethical issues associated with denying women their right to be safe at their workplaces.

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