Let's work towards safer workplaces

Most of the journalists reporting and commenting on the death more merciful than tragic of nurse Aruna Shanbaug are well over a generation removed from the incident. Their reference points are from the archives, their sense of shock and outrage dimmed by time. The story of a nurse brutally assaulted in her place of work by a wardboy should belong in the pages of history. Unfortunately, it is a history that repeats itself with sickening regularity.

Increasingly, as we spend longer hours at work, for many of us the workplace is a second home of sorts. It is a familiar place, where we feel comfortable enough to be ourselves and to give our best. A sense of security in such a place goes without saying. Which is why an assault, or even an untoward overture, in the workplace is much worse than one in a public place.

A hospital, furthermore, is a place where people are given care it is a place of nurture, providing a feeling of safety to both patients and staff. When predators roam the halls of such a sanctuary, we can only struggle with a sense of desperation. Even today we hear about doctors, other medical staff, and patients at the receiving end of assault in some form or the other.

One would think that after 42 years, there would have been some progress, some change for the better in workplace safety, and in the behaviour of men towards their female colleagues. With increasing numbers of women working outside the home, and virtually no avenue barred to them, it should have been an egalitarian world for all working people. But we have some way to go before getting there.

While there are cases of women having the upper hand, and sometimes misusing it, these are few and far between. For the most part, women at work are still vulnerable. A concerted safety policy and its sincere implementation, as well as a robust justice system, could help remedy this.

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