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Yes, I am a Witness! PDF Print Email

Past few months there has been a continuous debate on crimes in our society especially those committed against women. Rightly so, the society has started questioning the administration quite vehemently on what's being done by different governing bodies to prevent and to deal with such situations. We have in this debate talked about the responsibility of various agencies starting with Police to the Prosecution, the Judiciary, as the three pillars of criminal justice system. Moving further we have debated the responsibility of Media, Education sector as well the Resident Welfare Associations, the Market Welfare Association to name the few. I believe that now is also the time to talk about the individual responsibility and thus giving face to the whole gamut of responsibility.

While researching on how to involve society in the solution to this problem as to why people don't come forward to intervene as another members of society is in a stressful situation,  I came across the "bystander effect"[1], described as a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.

The whole purpose of me sharing my thoughts is that one's we are aware we will not be affected by this phenomenon of non action in the face of danger to another . This you tube link is an eye opener indeed and worth a watch

After watching this small clip, we can question ourselves for all the situations wherein we did not act or react for another fellow human being before we point a finger at another.

I believe realizing that this phenomenon is not unique to India but can be observed across the world, we need to know what we can do to inculcate social responsibility in ourselves and those around us, only then can we think of a change in the present scenario. As each one of us stand for another and not waiting for someone else to do it for the fear of looking ridiculous, fear for the self, legal consequences or just being apathetic, there will be noticeable changes in our society real soon. However, if this self policing does not happen then maybe we need the laws to step in.

Quebec has created a legal obligation through a Charter of human rights and freedoms which makes it mandatory for every citizen to come in aid of anyone whose life is in danger. The Brazilian Penal Code also makes it a criminal offence if a person does not help an injured or disabled person or abandoned children. Even in USA they have  Good Samaritan Laws that protect bystanders who act in good faith. May be we also need such legislations in India. However, even before that there is a need to have training on how one has to respond in a crisis situation. In USA the Army is doing bystander training with respect to sexual assault.

Similarly, while in India as we come out with lots of do's and don'ts for our women on how to stay safe thus putting the responsibility on them to stay safe, time has come for all of us to not to remain bystanders but responsive fellow human being prepared and ready to act and react in a crisis situation to self or another thus promoting a pro social behavior. Not afraid of saying "Yes, I am a witness and I intervened!"