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What can be done to make cities safe for women?

You don’t need to be an expert on the issue to know that women in Delhi and for that all over the country face stiff security challenges. The statistics collected by the National Crime Records Bureau amply shows that women in Delhi face high levels of violence. They face daily risk and fear of harassment, attack, assault, rape, and murder, both within their homes and outside. To corroborate the statistics you could read any newspaper headlines and you would come across incidents of crime against women at various levels, including heinous crimes of rape and abduction and even murder

The issue of women safety is directly linked to women’s right to a life of dignity and respect for women and other vulnerable categories in the society. Violence against women is not just a ‘women’s issue’. Women's safety and security cannot be ensured only through the efforts of women and handful of NGOs that take up this issue rather passionately. Sometimes the women safety issue is equated with the law and order situation which it is not. A handful of policemen cannot guard the women in a city of 1.25 crore people. So ultimately it boils down to creating an awareness in the society about women dignity and women’s own will to fight the menace.

Women indeed will have to come out of and take the issue in their own hand. These days it is wrong to assume that a person cannot defend himself or herself if he is not physically strong. That’s wrong to defend yourself you need to be mentally strong and alert. A pepper guard can come handy in times when you are assaulted and can give you that precious time to run away from the scene. Trust me there is no heroism in fighting an assailant. The gadgets like self-defense pepper spray are now freely available and can be bought off the shelf from general merchants and chemists shops. It would, however, be wrong to assume that just having a pepper guard in your purse is a guaranteed safety. Well, you will also have to learn to use it when the situation arises.

Moreover, we will have to let go of the conventional approach to women's safety which is based on restrictions and fear. This approach makes women alone responsible for their own safety. Whereas the right approach is to plug-in the problems in city planning and better guarding of the vulnerable spots; fixing the lights, better police patrolling and efficient helpline numbers can go a long way in achieving the women safety in the city. Apart from this self-defense training and lessons in using gadgets like self defense pepper spray can go a long way in ensuring women safety.

Many of the factors that make Delhi unsafe for women are common to other cities as well. The following one or more factors are reasons that make women in the city vulnerable:

1. A poor urban infrastructure – dark or badly lighted streets, derelict parks, and empty parking lots, badly maintained public spaces, inadequate signage, lack of public toilets are just a few things that should be looked into

2. Empty streets at night where no police presence can be seen

3. Lack of adequate public transport and apathy of bus drivers, conductors, and passengers.

4. The insufficient presence and unresponsive attitudes of police.

5. Lack of community life.

6. Traditional feudal mindset which needs to be changed through awareness campaigns

7. Ideas and beliefs about appropriate behavior