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Women and Public Safety in India’s Roads

Kolkata is perhaps among the safer cities in the country when it comes to public transport and women. Delhi Metro had to install separate compartments for women in metros and even ladies’ special trains free of cost a year or so back( the latter) to tackle the problem of women facing harassment while availing of public transport.

Public transport in India has always been an unsafe affair for women. Especially lone women travelling long distances. The general Indian public has never been accepting of the solo female traveller or the freedom of mobility for women. Instances of gropings, molestations, and harassment faced in crowded public transport like buses, trams and metro are sadly a regular affair for women. Harassment is also suffered in the form of insulting remarks, comments or catcalling to women.

 The entire nation was rocked almost a decade earlier when a gruesome gangrape of a paramedic in her 20’s inside a moving bus let to the young girl’s demise. The incident brought about changes in the rape laws of the country while also bringing the problem of how the very domain of the ‘public’ is unsafe for women in the very national capital, leave aside small towns that don’t even feature in the mainstream news. In the country, women travelling at par with men is still frowned upon as the indoors is seen as the domain that women should typically occupy. However with more and more women stepping out of their homes and into the outside world, big cities and towns are becoming inclusive spaces. However more remains to be done in terms of women’s safety in the public domain.

The problem has its roots in men finding it entertaining to abuse or harass women in public. Women too have been conditioned to fear protesting or the usual drudgeries of ‘creating a scene’ in public. Yet that is what is most needed. Protesting and speaking up for ourselves at the slightest feeling of discomfort is what as women we need to retrain ourselves into getting habituated. The traffic police must be trained to handle issues of harassment that female travellers face,  out on the streets. Greater sensitivity of the public to stand up for their fellow commuters is also a very welcome and effective gesture. In all, as a society, we need to make the domain of the public a much safer and secure space for our girls and women.

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