Not so safe on Delhi streets
As a thriving metropolis, New Delhi is taking steps towards becoming a world-class city but the safety of its residents remains a concern — especially if you are a woman.
But what makes New Delhi so unsafe? Experts differ on whether it’s the deep seated psyche of a male-dominated society, its socio-economic diversity or perhaps both.
Molestation, sexual harassment and even rape have become so common that staying safe is often seen as the woman’s responsibility.
Earlier this month, a woman travelling in an auto-rickshaw barely escaped when two men in a passing van tried to grab her. The auto-rickshaw driver was in cahoots with the kidnappers but the woman managed to evade them and jump out, leaving her bag behind. The woman, whose T-shirt was torn during her escape, sought refuge with a policeman who started questioning her, inadvertently letting the would-be rapists escape.
The woman was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. The incident took place around 8 in the evening. And there were many witnesses, who watched apathetically.
In such cases, officials often blame the woman’s attire. Would the men not have attempted kidnapping the woman if she was wearing a saree, salwar-kameez or a burqa? The latter would probably lessen the chances.
Is there a definition for appropriate attire, behaviour, a certain way of being — or all of them put together — to ensure no unwanted attention?
So far as New Delhi is concerned, it is widely understood that the new-age woman, boldly breaking social mores and stepping into male domains, needs to be extremely cautious of the way she carries herself in public places. Why is a woman walking in the street seen as fair game if a man isn’t with her?
Across the length and breadth of India, it is difficult to determine what state or city is more conservative than the other.
A survey by Jagori, a women’s rights group, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) last year reveals that two out of every three women in New Delhi have been sexually harassed at least twice and up to five times in one year. Seventy percent of the men interviewed said they would rather not intervene.
The establishment often forgets to ask what gives any man the licence to ogle, grope or rape a woman no matter what she may or may not be wearing. The question isn’t only about attire, it is in fact about a deep-seated mentality that runs into many centuries of an extremely sexually repressed India, where the repression translates itself into violence at various levels.
Where do we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour? Is there hope for New Delhi?