An engineer by education, Leher Sethi left her job at a multinational company and today is associated with various NGOs and is the secretary to the ICHR (Indian Council for Human Relations) and ICUNR (Indian Council for UN Relations). ICUNR awarded Sethi the International Women’s Day Award while honouring Outstanding Women Achievers of 2013 in 2014.
Talking about the progress in terms of empowering women and their safety on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Sethi says, “I honestly feel that we have in a certain way, been going backwards. Even though women are getting economically empowered, they are still made to feel that they are ‘lucky’ to have understanding husbands, parents and inlaws. These statements are heard in metros like Delhi, imagine the situation in Tier 2 and 3 cities.
Why do we still have the perception that women are being granted something, this, in my opinion, is regressive. Their rights are not something that needs to be granted to women. This is their right.” Sethi goes on to point out the number of rape cases which according to the latest report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 3,78,277 cases of crime against women were reported in India in 2018. “The number of rape cases and the horrifying stories we hear reflects the reality.
People, mainly the uneducated lot are sexually frustrated because we don’t talk about sex or talk about our bodies, often hiding behind the veil of tradition and culture. Look at the Nirbhaya case. Why would anybody be afraid of committing a rape? And if the victim is your wife, it’s not even a crime,” says Sethi, who believes that prostitution should be legalised in India given the high rates of sexual crime against women. Sethi has spoken at Shaheen Bagh and is a staunch supporter for the cause.
“Women, especially in our country, are usually are seen as the weaker sex, but these protests have shown that this isn’t the case. Even if you go to JNU, most of the protest calls are headed by girls. It is great to see girls and women are coming out. They are getting their children, parents and grandparents to voice their opinion,” says Sethi, who stresses that there is a change in the mentality of husbands and families, who have become supportive of women.
While Sethi applauds how women are in the heart of the movement, she finds the statements made by the government officials and at times the ministers disturbing. “We probably have the highest percentage of the Member of Parliaments with cases of molestation and women related crimes against them. So, we as activism need to pressurise the government to set up special courts to have trials against these MPs before letting them sit in the Parliament. How can we expect parliamentarians, who themselves are accused of crimes against women, to be making bills and passing laws for the safety of women?”
In a nutshell
Leher Sethi is the secretary to the ICHR (Indian Council for Human Relations) and ICUNR (Indian
Council for UN Relations). ICUNR awarded Sethi the International Women’s Day Award while honouring
Outstanding Women Achievers of 2013 in 2014.