How can Indian cities be made more secure for women to protect their right to freedom of movement and safety? This series will focus on violence in the public domain and the responses, strategies and campaigns to resist such violence and make urban spaces safer for women at all times of the day or night.
Barbara Holtmann: Fighting Urban Violence The South African Way
Public safety and security - especially of women - are hot button
issues in South Africa, which is estimated to have the highest number
of rape incidents per capita in the world, and ranks second after
Colombia, in terms of murders per capita. The issue has been the focus
of much attention and mobilisation and several innovative approaches
to address it have emerged in recent times. Dr Barbara Holtmann, a
consultant with UN-HABITAT, and closely associated with the Women in
Cities International, which is presently working in five continents
with groups like the Delhi-based women's resource centre, Jagori,
explains how cities could build what she terms as a "safe community of
* "If you put that 50 billion Rand that South Africa spends on private
security in the middle of the room, and think of the best ways we can
come up to make ourselves safer other than having a man at the gate
with a gun, we could come up with more creative ways to respond to the
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By Pooja Bakshi
'I've Got My Eyes On You': How Women Students Face Stalking In Delhi
Stalking is a form of sexual harassment that often goes unnoticed or dismissed as passive and harmless. Yet, such behaviour can manifest itself in ugly, even murderous, ways. On March 8 - ironically International Women's Day - Delhi was shocked by the daylight shooting of a young student, Radhika Tanwar, just outside the university campus, by a man who was stalking her for several months. What are the social attitudes that result in such behaviour? What are the experiences of young women students on college campuses of India's capital, with regard to stalking? How should women respond to this crime?
* "I don't even remember the first time I was stalked by someone in my surroundings. It just feels like men have been stalking me forever..."
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By Shruti Parthasarathy
Combating Violence Against Women,Graphic Novel Style
How does one address something as insidious, damaging and invasive as the violence women face daily, with something that is positive, youthful and interesting all at once? This is just what Jagori, a Delhi-based women's training and resource centre, had in mind when it asked documentary filmmaker Sehjo Singh to create advocacy and communication material for its ongoing campaign on violence against women and the Safe City Campaign. So, inspired by real life stories from Jagori's files, of women who have suffered violence and emerged victorious, Sehjo created fictional scenarios and protagonists and wove them into easy-to-follow graphic novel style interactive panels, which are on display in public and community spaces in Delhi and will be taken to other cities as well.
* 'Tring Tring' deals with domestic violence. The male and female protagonists communicate that it is not a woman's problem alone. A physical bell is provided for the audience to ring, if they agree with the panel's message.
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By Geeta Seshu
Women-friendlier Cities: Experiences From 61 Countries
With more than 3.4 billion people in the world now living in cities, the safety of half this population - women - is at a precarious state. Sexual harassment and street violence is at a high: 35-60 per cent of women surveyed in an International Violence Against Women survey said they experienced physical or sexual violence by any man since age 16. Women are insecure that's for sure, but what's the solution? Here's what participants from 61 cities, as seemingly diverse as Port Moresby, Cairo, Kigali and Paris, had to say at the recent Third International Safe Cities conference in Delhi: Make spaces safer by improving urban design; focus on housing, transport and other support services; and ensure women are part of the decision-making process that would respond to their needs.
* Where women are part of an urban design process - in the building of their homes and communities - the results clearly show that they give priority to safety, ease of movement and equitable access of all facilities.
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By Geeta Seshu
Women's Safety - Can Cities Keep The Promise?
Barely a day before the shocking rape of a woman BPO employee in a moving tempo in the country's national capital was reported, more than 270 participants from 41 countries adopted a declaration at the concluding session of the Third International Conference On Safe Cities For Women And Girls in New Delhi, that asserted the right of all women to live free from violence and fear, in more equitable, democratic and inclusive cities. It noted that 'The safety of women in urban areas is welded to a truly inclusive city that affirms the special needs of all citizens, especially those who are disabled, poor or belong to different ethnicities and participatory decision-making that involves strong partnerships between civil society organisations, governments and urban local authorities, law-enforcing agencies is the need of the hour.'
* "The violence that often defines women in society has reached endemic proportions, becoming ordinary instead of extraordinary. Women and children often give up on the right to education or a livelihood as a trade-off for safety."
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By Monobina Gupta
Freeze Frames: Female In The City
'Transportaits: Women and Mobility in the City', an unusual exhibition of photographs to mark the Third International Conference on Women's Safety in Delhi, is truly remarkable. Its collage of public spaces, sometimes cast in shadows, at others illuminated by a patch of light, reveals the often invisible subtext underlining cities. Organised by Jagori, the exhibition captures the experiences of women, regardless of their age, class or creed, as they traverse the city as residents, visitors, workers. Like the varied subjects in the photographs, those who have wielded the camera have drawn upon their diverse skills as writers, artists, activists, community workers, photographers. Transportraits will travel in Delhi and to other cities in India.
* "I feel unsafe on the way to school as it is deserted, but as there is no other way, so I am forced to go," says Sarita, while Preeti adds that she 'hums' to herself whenever she feels unsafe.
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By Pamela Philipose
International Voices For Safer Cities
Cities should be spaces for opportunities and personal growth rather than sites of exclusion and assault. Going by the experiences of women across the world, they turn out to be the latter, more often than not. Today, there is a growing realisation about the need to create a more secure working, living and commuting environment for women in urban centres. In fact, some cities like Ottawa have even developed an equity and inclusion lens to make people better aware of others in their midst, especially the marginalised. Later this month in Delhi, two organisations - the Delhi-based Jagori, and Women In Cities International, which is currently working in five continents - will be hosting a world conference on the theme of building inclusive cities.
* "Many women and girls face multiple discriminations and are systematically excluded from decision-making. This exclusion means that city spaces are not shaped with their needs in mind."
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By Renu Rakesh
For Women's Safety, We Need Women Police. But Who Will Protect Them?
There were five stabs on her body, two gaping cuts on her head, her fingers were chopped off. That's how constable Maya Yadav, 22, was killed by her two colleagues in a police guesthouse in Chechat in Rajasthan's Kota district. Six days later, Pushpa Jat, a constable at Jaitaran in Pali district, consumed sleeping pills when she failed to fend off the advances of the Station House Officer. These are not isolated incidents; sexual harassment of women constables is increasing in the same proportion as their numbers in the state force. The 'Safe Cities For Women & Girls' campaign's Bogota Declaration called for more women police officers specifically attending cases of violence against women and girls. But who will protect the policewomen themselves from violence and sexual harassment?
* "When women discuss it [harassment] with their colleagues, they are advised to keep quiet and be more careful in future."
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By Shipra Narang Suri
Women Only: From Delhi To Mexico, Making Public Transport Safer
Over half of the women respondents to a recent survey conducted in Delhi reported that public transport was the most unsafe 'place' for women in Delhi. In New York City, a web-based survey on the city's subway system revealed that 63 per cent of the respondents had been sexually harassed in the subway. For most women, whether in Delhi or New York, using public transport is not optional and, therefore, a safe transport system is central to improving their access to their city. London, New York and Mexico City have planned extensive strategies for women commuters. While Mumbai always had its women's only compartments in local trains, women commuters in Delhi, too, now have space reserved for them in the Delhi Metro. Things are changing, but awareness needs to grow.
* "In Delhi nothing is safe... not an auto, bus, not even the metro!"
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By Shwetha E. George
Sexual Harassment On Wheels
A random survey taken of 200 women who commute within the city of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, recently revealed that 99 per cent of respondents felt the city was not safe for women. This despite the fact that Thiruvananthapuram has a reputation for being a more enlightened city than many of its counterparts in the country. What was a particularly disturbing revelation from the survey was that 'yathrapeedanam', or 'abuse on wheels', is a recurring experience for most women on city buses, the extent of which surprised even social activists. A campaign is now on to raise public awareness about what constitutes sexual harassment.
* "I am in my 50s now and I can tell you that I felt safer on the buses when I was in my 20s, although there was less choice of transport then. There is more harassment now."
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By Pamela Philipose
Planning Cities As If Women Matter
As in other parts of the world, India's urban population is registering an inexorable rise. Unfortunately, while planning and designing cities and public spaces in India, agencies have generally been blind to the needs of the people who live and work in them, especially women. For far too long, women have had to accommodate themselves to the dangers that confront them when they go out of their homes. They have had to restrict their lives: They hunch in a public bus or avoid walking on narrow pavement for fear of being groped. They are constantly thinking of safety implications of where they go and what they wear. So can Indian cities be planned in a manner that ensures greater security and mobility for its most vulnerable citizens?
* "In cities where you have shops rising from the footpath or pavement, you have a feeling of security, because you feel there is activity on the edge."
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By Kalpana Viswanath
Excuse Me! Can I Just Live Freely In This City?
More than 90 per cent women feel that just being a woman is a vulnerability. Seven out of ten women have been routinely subject to staring, leering and verbal forms of harassment. A whopping 66 per cent women say that they have faced incidents of violence and harassment between two to five times in a year. Women's safety, or the lack of it, plays a central role in determining their mobility and access to a city. But, unfortunately, the girls and women in Delhi learn very early that it is a jungle out there. Delhi, seen through a gendered lens, is not a pretty picture going by the findings of the recent joint survey by the Delhi government, NGO Jagori and UNIFEM. But despite these dire circumstances, women are not taking this lying down.
* 'One of most interesting findings of this survey is that more than 60 per cent women confronted the harasser in some way. This was uniformly high among women from different age groups and in different occupations.'
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By Tripti Nath
Delhi Women Can Depend On Bus Conductors For A Safer Ride
Almost a decade ago, a newspaper advertisement showing women being harassed at a bus stand in the presence of silent male bystanders, read, 'There are no men in this picture or this would not happen'. The text may have slightly sexist overtones but it flags the fact that Delhi has long had a reputation for being the most unsafe city in India for women. Women travelling by Delhi's public transport - mainly the buses - are forced to suffer sexual harassment in silence, as the people around them, mostly men, look the other way. But in an effort to make the average woman's daily commute a little more secure and harassment free, Delhi government's Department of Women and Child Development teamed up with Jagori, a Delhi-based women's organisation, to organise a three-day gender sensitisation training for 50 Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) trainers.
* 'These 50 instructors will pass on the knowledge through refresher courses and depot visits. It motivates drivers and conductors to be take quick and correct decisions in case they notice that a woman passenger is being harassed.'
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