Prevention of Crimes Against Women:
A Leaf from Prevention of Hospital Infections
For a visitor or patient, a good hospital may look very clean and well kept. But behind that cleanliness and organized work environment there is always a lurking danger, sometime a deadly one. It is because there are germs that can cause severe or even deadly infections. Some of those germs are resistant to antibiotics. Yet, the doctors, nurses and staff working in a hospital are trained how to protect themselves and the patients from those deadly infections, and how to prevent their spread within the hospital and thus ensure a safe environment. This is achieved by a variety of methods, collectively called Infection Control.
Similarly, a society may look cultured, civilized and very decent outwardly. But, always there are some bad or evil people even in those societies. Everyone living in the society should be trained in methods of protecting themselves from the acts of such bad or evil people, as well as ensure that their family, kith and kin and fellow beings are protected. This can also be achieved by a variety of approaches, collectively called Crime Prevention.
The methods and approaches of Infection Control in a hospital and Crime Prevention in the society may be different from the point of practice. But the principles involved in both are very similar. Just as adherence to principles and practices of infection control drastically reduces the chances of getting infected with deadly germs in the hospital, so also adherence to the principles and practices of crime prevention in the society will save lives to a large extent, if not by 100%. Knowledge of the principles and practices of infection control is saving the lives of the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, who are always exposed to the risk of getting infected. Similarly, it is the knowledge of the principles and practice of crime prevention that will save precious lives of people from the predators in the society. So, let us examine the similarities in the principles of both these, so that one can understand the principles and practices and will be better equipped to deal with Crime Prevention in the society from a practical point of view.
There are several methods and approaches in the infection control. For the sake of presentation and comparison, I will group them into five categories. They are: (i) Safe Personal Practices; (ii) Personal Protective Equipment; (iii) Good Housekeeping; (iv) Safe Disposal of Biohazard Materials; and (v) Engineering Controls.
Safe Personal Practices: This is the first step in infection control. It involves simple procedures, such as washing hands frequently with just soap and water, so that the germs are not carried with our hands. This also involves avoiding touching surfaces that are rich in germs, such as door knobs, just before examining a patient. These simple steps alone can markedly reduce the chances of spread of infection. Extrapolation of safe personal practices to crime prevention translates into staying in the company of good people and avoiding contact with suspicious people. It can also mean avoiding places where there are no people around, irrespective of how cool that place is. Just like the germs cannot infect us unless we come in contact with them, bad people cannot hurt anyone, unless one comes into contact with them, knowingly or unknowingly, especially in lonely places. The hospital staff are trained not to recap the needles after using the syringes. It is because, they can get needle sticks to their fingers during that process. So also, one should not get involved with colleagues of suspicious nature beyond what is necessary to do one’s work in one’s job. This is very important, as often working women had to deal with unfriendly colleagues at work. Such unfriendly colleagues should be considered like needles of a used syringe with deadly germs. They can prick on anyone vulnerable. To these safe personal practices, one can add using HawkEye and such apps in the cell phone while commuting in the city. Women should also avoid parking their scooters or cars in the same place every day, as that allows premeditation on the part of evil doers. In fact, there is no limit to the safe personal practices. By creatively thinking, one can add layers of safety features.
Personal Protective Equipment: One might have noticed that doctors, nurses and hospital staff wear scrubs, gloves, masks or even goggles when working in potentially infectious or harmful situations. These are called Personal Protective Equipment of PPE. PPE protects the hospital staff from the invading germs. It does not matter how cautiously doctors and staff may work, at times they are mandated to wear PPE to reduce the chances of getting infected and also to prevent carrying out the infections to outside of the hospitals. As far as the requirement for PPE is concerned, self-confidence does not matter. Even the most skilled surgeon can be infected. So, also any person, however intelligent she may be, can be a victim of crime at any time. The “casual attitude” thinking that it is a known place and all people here are known to me, should be completely avoided. Statistics show that many women are hurt at workplace by men known to her. Hence, to be on the safe side, carrying a pepper spray or key chain alarm or brass knuckles and such things that can stop or stun or hurt a predator can be considered PPE of crime prevention. When safe personal practices fail, the PPE comes to rescue the person as a second line of denfence.
Good Housekeeping: The housekeeping staff in a hospital work 24/7 to ensure that trash is removed several times a day, spills are cleaned immediately, floors are mopped at the end of the day. Similarly, the police have to ensure that the streets and bus stops are free from bad guys or suspicious persons looking for a chance to harass or assault women. This should be done several times a day without any fixed time, so that the bad guys cannot guess when the police will be there. If there is an untoward incident (spill) police must act quickly and decisively and ensure safe environment returns quickly. Just like housekeeping is the responsibility of the hospital administration, keeping the roads, streets, parking lots, places of commuting with the help of the police is the sole responsibility of the governments.
Safe Disposal of Biohazard Materials: By the very nature of their work, hospitals produce significant amounts of biohazard materials, which are very harmful to the human health. These are collected into safe containers at the place of their origin, transported carefully and disposed of safely by dedicated staff trained in the task. Similarly, by the very nature of human beings, every society is bound to produce some bad or evil guys. As long as such people are identified they should be contained or restricted at their places, kept under a watch, and lock them up if needed. Lest they will spread their evil into the society, just like uncontained biohazard materials. Again, this is the responsibility of the governments, not the people.
Engineering Controls: Every hospital has built in controls that prevent spread of infections. For example, operation rooms, which need to remain clean have positive pressure as compared to their surroundings, so that germs are not sucked into the operation rooms. On the contrary, wards with infected patients have negative pressure, so that the germs do not leave the room and spread. Similarly, places where girls or women are concentrated, such as schools or colleges or hostels etc., should be made out of bound for strangers or unwanted persons, and access to such places should be controlled by security staff and electronic surveillance. There should not be any bars or belt shops within 2 km distance of such places, and the streets should be free from drunkards and hanging over dudes. Conversely, places with higher risk, but where women may have to go or cross due to work or other legitimate reasons, should be well lighted in the night time, security cameras installed, and police should patrol those places often. It is also advisable to clean up such places by winding up the bad guys or by taking action on them if they misbehave or drink on the streets. Prevention is better than cure. As one can guess, these engineering controls are entirely the responsibility of the governments.
Take Home Message: The responsibilities of individuals (first two above) and the responsibility of the police and the government (last three) complement each other to ensure a safer environment for the women of India. Even then, sporadic incidents are likely to occur, but overall the crimes against women can be reduced drastically so that women can feel safe and secure. This is a continuous process that should not be stopped or relaxed under no circumstances. It is like the water leaking into a boat, and the holes are too many to plug. One has to keep draining the water constantly. If one stops, the leaking water will sink the boat eventually. Unfortunately, today we are living in a society that is like a boat with multiple holes in its bottom. We have no choice except staying in it and rowing it, as we have to reach our destiny.
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking. Everybody knows the captain lied. Everybody got this broken feeling, like their father or their dog just died. Everybody talking to their pockets. Everybody wants a box of chocolates and a long-stem rose. Everybody knows. – Leonard Cohen
Contributed by: Bellamkonda K. Kishore, M.D., Ph.D., MBA