'Feeling safe' and 'Being safe'
“Tere ghar par maa behan nahi hain” (Don’t you have a sister and mother at home) often heard in movies to abuse the loafer on the road. In reality you often get an answer back saying “ maa behan toh hain, par Chamiya nahi hain” (There is sister and mother but no heroine like you). You have already clenched your fist, but realize you are helpless, and that things will never change, and you walk ahead, listening to all the jeering and cheering behind you. Yet another day of……… I don’t feel safe here. In spaces like slums where living is anyway a challenge everyday, women issues are endless.
Born and brought up in India, I realized safety is always a big question mark. On an average at least once in a day you go through the fear of being
The ‘fear’ factor among male students- Learning from Campus life to have Governance systems
Using Jugaad weapons
Acquainting with the men in the area
Once I happened to walk alone inside my college campus, I think it was 11:00 in the night. I remember smiling- I was not scared, I could just walk with my head raised, without worrying. It was a ‘wow’ feeling. It was something I have never experienced, It was something I never thought I could feel, or until that moment I didn’t even know what it feels to ‘feel safe’.
This was in IIT Bombay, One of the biggest reasons I loved being in the campus .campuses work like a small community which can be managed better. Any smallest of instance of eve teasing leads to severe punishments like rusticating the student then and there. This really works as nobody wants to put their career at stake for some not required fun.
The weak women’s laws in the country, and never ending court procedures let even rapists escape for years, forget things like molestation and eve teasing.
Making micro governance systems in slums and chawls. In case of my campus it was called as women’s cell. In Mumbai especially there are various reasons people come together, especially to celebrate various festivals, so why not for this reason? These will work well in close knit societies where a strong law body will help in avoiding any such instances.
Life and Light:
How a settlement exist can really make one feel safe on a particular street or road. Incidentally we often hear people say“ that it’s ok to reach a little late to my house as the shops opposite are open till 10:30 in the night. I was trying to figure out the relation between the two.
Having a mixed use localities- residential along with small commercial spaces gives more life to the place. In India having shops around also leads to familiarity and good social life where people also happen to know who is moving in and out of a house or building.
Commercial spaces also happen to have good or sufficient lighting where you know that the crime is unlikely, even petty crimes like eve teasing is less in well lit space.
The ‘Jugaad’ Weapons:
“If I had the power in my eyes to somehow hurt the person who hurts me.” This of course is the weapon of future which will be defined by the anger factor. Pepper sprays is the quickest but I don’t know a single woman who keeps it.
Ideas and campaigns arranged to make what’s handy as’ weapons, things that we never forget to carry or have an easy access.
Phone, stationary, Hair clips and accessories, Slippers, piece of Jewellery- Are there ways that these become efficient weapons when required. Safety pin is the smallest weapon you can carry along with you. Try this with a man who is harassing you in the bus, he sure is going to have the ‘ouch’ moment.
Befriend and know the men around
Acquainting to the men in your community or having a friendly relationship with them gives you the confidence that they will not tease you. Another good aspect to this is they will not let other men to tease the girls they know. This certainly is a step towards feeling safe. This is an inference from working, studying and being in a less gender biased organizations and societies. (The above is not an indication of using men for your protection, nor being friendly in the flirtatious sense)
Communicating women issues to the men
Though most of the men are quite aware of these issues when it comes to the women in their families, but the same men tend to be notorious in the society. How does one deal with them. It’s the responsibility of the mother and the sister in the house to speak about these issues to them, what will be interesting is to find creative ways to do the same.
The value system- Awareness begins at home
Have you ever heard a mother telling her son “ to never misbehave with a woman” ? but of course you have heard them telling their daughters “ Be careful, see what you are wearing”. Is there something wrong with the value cycle? The scenario in slums and chawls are no different, women are always told to be scared, to be careful.
Also, the family shame is not just in a girls hand. Encourage women to expose men who misbehave, make sure the culprits family comes to know of his deeds.