On Saturday, I attended Indiblogger and TOI’s Bloggers Meet held in Bangalore. I was curious as to how the session would pan out. And the topic is extremely relevant and emotional to all women. The discussions and sharing of experiences were lively and emotionally charged to say the least. And despite hearing horrendous tales and reading them in newspapers day in and day out, it still affects me when I hear a lady describe her ordeal while being stalked to the verge of being molested or another bullied by a man and forced to be out on the streets at 2 am at night bag and baggage. Another lady from the North East had to stop taking autos and get a two-wheeler because she could not deal with the daily harassment meted out to her by auto drivers. It makes me so ashamed to hear it. It is so very sad that we can’t approach the police, are scared for every step that our child takes and every time when we venture out on the street.
It is not surprising to know that Bangalore is number 2 among all metropolises in terms of overall crime after Delhi. Crime against women is a huge concern in India, and Bangalore is no exception. I don’t remember feeling this unsafe in my childhood years or college years. Has the society gotten worse? I don’t know. I have been living in Bangalore for the last 10 years now. And let me share some first-hand experiences I have had. Yes, I feel scared to drive even at 9 pm. Once on New Year’s Eve a few years ago, my husband and I had gone for a movie to a mall. We had taken our car that was parked across the street. While crossing the street, I was groped by a man who walked away quickly. I was disgusted, but could not do a thing. The streets were milling with drunken crowds. It was an agony getting back home in the car which was stopped by drunk men multiple times on our way back. Luckily worse things did not happen because what protection can a family have in a crowd of drunken men with beer bottles in hand gheraoing your car? That experience scared the daylights out of me.
Since that day, I have stopped venturing out for New Year’s Eve parties. When I drive, I am stared at, glared at, leched at, and intimidated. No, I don’t feel safe traveling alone in public transport either beyond day time. I was robbed in one such bus ride. I do take buses but when with family or larger groups. Crowds do give a semblance of safety but not necessarily so. I was once rammed by a speeding truck while my car was stationary. Instead of apologizing, the driver, his cleaner and his cronies threatened me in foul language though a couple of people came to my rescue but they were asked to back off and threatened as well. I did take a picture of the truck and its license plate and complained to the police with the photos of my damaged car. But the traffic police though responding to my email said they could not do anything! And meanwhile I was so shaken that it took a lot of confidence boosting on my husband’s part to make me drive the car again. I have seen that in a conflict situation, knowing Kannada becomes of prime importance, as many immigrants or outsiders at the meet also pointed out. As Bangalore is a cosmopolitan metropolis with people from all states rubbing shoulders with the 40% Kannadigas residing here, it is high time that the city stopped judging you or looking down upon you on the basis of the language you speak. Yes, I understand Kannada but can’t speak fluently. Judge me or condemn me for that if you wish to but don’t attack me for it.
So, as a woman here are some things that I feel can make Bangalore safer and more empathetic to its women citizens:
- A functional helpline: If caught in a crowd situation, being stalked, in an accident etc. I want to reach out to an empathetic helpline maybe run in conjunction with traffic department, police and Women’s NGOs together that is manned by multilingual persons 24X7 with functioning numbers. It can be advertised in major newspapers and online forums so that everyone knows it. This hopefully can become every woman’s first go in a sticky situation.
- A website: This website can be a treasure trove of information as well as a networking place for community participation. Women and men can come forward and form hangouts in their area to volunteer for Neighborhood watch, Rescue a person in distress, help take an accident victim to hospital, car pool, for garbage management etc. We must actively work at community building to tackle the multiple problems faced in the city of Bangalore including safety. And this website can be a nodal point for such interactions. It can have its social media pages for more active participation. These kinds of interlinked community groups can have better leverage with civic organizations, Corporators and MLAs to bring about real change on the ground. We can make our own selves responsible for our civic issues. Also other information like women’s help workshops, specific helplines for issues like domestic violence, sexual abuse etc. can be shared here. This can be a website in liaison with a newspaper and Corporates to encourage participation of all agencies in Bangalore. It can have informative sessions like the one offered by Mr. Franklin Joseph on confidence and body language in deterring physical attack. I wish there was more time spent on that in the meet. The website can also highlight good samaritans like in this post that I had done recently. It can be used to name and shame known offenders with pictures and other information. Basically a place that brings all like-minded people and resources that in a combined way can work towards making Bangalore safer and better.
- An empathetic police force: My solo experience of filing an FIR at a police station after losing my wallet was very smooth. I was told to sit down explained the procedure, and told to write a letter in English. The copy of which they gave to me readily after stamping and signing. Yet, we do need more policewomen, women hawaldars and traffic policewomen as most women do not feel safe in approaching the police. This cannot happen overnight. But, to begin with, there must be a woman incharge at every police station for taking police complaints or for filing FIRs so that a woman can feel more comfortable approaching the police especially for violent crimes, molestation, stalking, domestic violence and such issues that require empathetic and non judgmental handling. Police stations can have awareness campaigns around how a woman can approach a police station for a complaint, the steps involved in filing an FIR, special phone lines for women to register complaints etc. Keeping the cosmopolitan nature of the city in mind, English and other languages must also be accepted along with Kannada in police stations and other civic agencies.
- Awareness campaigns in schools: Schools must be roped in to receive special supplements and updates from police or media about how to stay safe. Sex education and information on child abuse must be made a mandatory part of the curriculum to educate and safeguard both our girl and boy children.
There are many more issues that concern women like health, education, child and mother care, illiteracy, domestic violence and so on. But, I believe that in a city, safety and security are paramount. An unsafe city sees women withdrawing from venturing out and social participation, from exploring job opportunities that require them to travel long distances or work late hours. It is not only the woman’s loss but the loss of an entire community, city and nation.
Apart from being your mother, wife, daughter, a woman is a human being first! Just like a man she deserves to feel safe and to walk out of her home without fearing that she will be attacked, mauled or killed solely due to her gender. Hopefully we can mobilize enough support from the society, citizens, civic agencies and Corporates to make this a safer city for all its citizens!
Pic courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net
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