IS IT ENOUGH TO SIMPLY MARK A DAY FOR WOMEN?

Tanya Khandelwal

Chennai, March 7: There is an urgent need to look at the state of women’s safety across India, especially in its metro cities, ahead of International Women’s Day. Simply marking a date and turning a blind eye to the rising incidence of crimes against women would only anchor the problem deeper in society.

According to data on the rate of crimes against women across cities released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2016, Chennai ranks 18th on a list of 19 cities, which gives it the tag of a relatively safe city as compared to other Indian cities. Being an IT hub, the city also has a female migrant population who move here for work or education, making them vulnerable outsiders.

However, there has been a spurt in the cases of crimes like rape, stalking and harassment over time with more and more number of cases being reported.Cases of marital discord ending in murders and instances of acid attacks also get reported.

SOME RECENT CASES

Recently, a 60-year-old woman, a resident of Satyamoorthy Nagar here, was raped by three teenagers who broke into her house in the early hours of the day, threatening her against disclosing the incident to anyone.

Another case that received a lot of coverage and instilled fear among people was the murder of a city-based actress whose husband murdered her. Police found her chopped body parts in a dump yard in Perungudi.

Cases of young girls being drugged and raped, hacking of women by harassers in full public view and similar incidents has surfaced.

HOW SAFE DO WOMEN ACTUALLY FEEL?

Sanjana Karaya (23), a flight attendant at Indigo, who hails from Bombay but moved to Chennai for her job, said, “There are instances when walking on the streets is unnerving because of stares and verbal harassment. Men here especially think that North Indian girls are ‘easy’, something that is just stupid.” She added that despite a relatively safe workspace, she has felt uneasy going around the city without her local friends due to the constant moral policing pertaining to her westernised way of dressing.

Similarly, Aarushi Vohra (23), a student at Madras School of Economics here, said that she comes from Delhi where the issue of women’s safety is extremely precarious; however the cultural difference makes it difficult for her to live in Chennai due to a more conservative social environment. “We can’t go out at night alone without being judged or followed, and that is made worse by the language barrier that exists,” she said.

“Since I’m an army kid, I’ve had to move around a lot and I think Chennai is by far the safest of the metro cities I’ve lived in, Delhi being the worst. Yes, the society is more conservative here, but I’ve had very few problems on the personal safety front in this city,” said Sneha Vakkala(24), a resident of R.A. Puram.

Most women agreed that Chennai is safer than many other cities, but the fact that they talked about their own sense of safety in relative rather than absolute terms points to the deeply entrenched problem, where complete always remains at arm’s length for women.

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