Women and New Delhi: the views of travellers
By Aditya Kalra and Anuja Jaiman
Assurances from the police and a new anti-rape law have done little to make the streets of New Delhi safer for women, especially for those using public transport, interviews conducted by the India Insight team show.
Here are edited excerpts from conversations:
Farhana Ahmed, 22, student; travelling in a bus
I only feel safe travelling by bus in the day time because it’s crowded and there are less chances of being in trouble. I prefer not to board a bus after five in the evening. Whenever we go out after 9 p.m., we have experienced eve-teasing. I think it’s better not to wear dresses at night.
Thoudam Regina, 30, analyst; waiting at a bus stand
In foreign countries, even if you wear shorts, nothing happens. I wear sports shoes so that (if) something happens, I could run. I never wear chappals (slippers) nowadays.
Sania Hashmi, 21, student; waiting at Munirka bus stop
I don’t think anything has changed per se. As long as we have a patriarchal society, this thing is not going to change, it’s a social problem. I don’t think there is any girl in our country at large, who hasn’t experienced molestation. My only dream is to see an India where you see gender parity.
Vaishali Sharma, executive in a real estate company; travelling in a bus
We don’t consider ourselves safe anywhere … we fear that something might happen, especially when we leave at night or after office at 7 p.m. I generally keep chilli powder in my purse. Even girls are at fault, they leave at night and dressing sense is not right.
Roopali Jawa, 26, chartered accountant; in the Delhi Metro
Nothing has improved and I don’t even think it is going to improve. My parents are worried about me, I just replied to an SMS from (my) parents who were asking if I have boarded the metro. I carry a dress in my bag if I am going to party after work. I did not do this until last year.
Mohammad Atif, 27, student; waiting at Munirka bus stop
I believe that punishment for crimes such as rapes should be so stringent that they induce fear in people. How can a juvenile rape? Rape has a direct correlation to being an adult. Law and regulations have loopholes. Mentality change will take 50-100 years … in this time how many girls will fall prey you cannot imagine. Why should girls wear proper clothes, why not boys? Boys wear whatever they want, don’t girls have feelings?
Sakshi Sharma, 28, teacher in Delhi University; in the Delhi Metro
I don’t really feel safe. Let’s say somebody is mischievous, I can’t tell him, “give me your I-card because I travel alone and what if someone follows me.” You can’t be really strict with male students. In a crowded metro compartment, given a chance, men will try to touch you. It doesn’t matter how many rape cases happen. My parents have told me, don’t take up any job in an evening college.
Sudhir, 58, villager; in the Delhi Metro
I am from a village, but I think 70 percent of the mistake is of girls. The dressing style is so dirty. Just yesterday I saw girls wearing skimpy clothes, there was one boy with them. Even boys are at fault.
Chandra Mohan, 56, government employee; travelling in a bus
Nothing has changed, instead it has become worse now. We are always worried when our daughters go out. The law and order situation is not right.
Suman, advocate; in the Delhi Metro
There has not been much change, but I know the reason. There is so much freedom to girls … dressing sense is one of the main issues. We might have many laws, but it doesn’t matter if you walk openly … I have even rebuked girls at times. Even girls are at fault. I have not felt unsafe, but I try to reach home by 6.30 in the evening.
Devi Ram, 40, bus driver
I will not get my daughter and wife to the city from the village. Costs are higher here, safety is an issue too. There are more cases of eve-teasing here. If there is a problem in my bus, I will call on 100 and hand over to police, we will fight.
Biraj Swain, 37, economist; waiting at Munirka bus stop
I actually feel quite safe. I come from a city (in Odisha) which has no public transport and have worked in Africa which has no public transport. I think the discourse has just become too much, and too much in your face … in a way it’s a good thing, but I also feel there’s a huge amount of peer pressure to continue to stick to that narrative … There’s a lot more offering of the seat now. There are a lot more proactive steps from the conductor to get the ladies’ seat vacated.
Devender Kumar, 33, bus conductor
Women are still not safe in Delhi, law and order situation is the problem. Everyone is worried seeing the environment.
Seema Singh, 26, housewife; waiting at Munirka bus stop
I escort my daughter to school each day as I am fearful of her travelling in a school van. I am so scared. How will I bring her up, educate her … I feel like crying. Clothes also make an impact. Girls are also at fault, they don’t wear proper clothes. We ourselves feel ashamed.
Shabnam Abbasi, 26, teacher; travelling in a bus
There have been little changes after the December case. The only solution is that girls become self-dependent. I try to reach home at the earliest. The young boys do not trouble much, the problem is with the age group 30-50. They irritate us so much at times in buses that I feel like slapping them.
Deepa Pant, 36, hotelier; waiting at a bus stop
There has been some change in attitude; men are vacating the seats for ladies. People are more concerned. The solution is to educate people. Men aged above 35 cause most of the trouble.
Vineeta Sachdev, 38, government employee; waiting at a bus stop
You can change yourself, but you cannot change the mentality. Girls should avoid wearing short clothes.