Despite Bengaluru’s cosmopolitan nature, safety in public spaces is still a problem for women in the city. Opinions vary about whether Bengaluru is safer compared to other Indian cities, but most women agree that the city has a long way to go in terms of accommodating women.
Is Bengaluru women-friendly?
A panel discussion Dec 18th, 4-5.30pm @ NGMA Auditorium, Palace Road, Bangalore
All are welcome.
The Bangalorean panelists (in alphabetical order)
Prakash Belawadi, a well-known journalist, theatre enthusiast and a filmmaker.
Mithila Jha, an Urban Planner, currently working with BMTC.
Suneel Kumar (IPS), is Additional Commissioner of Police (Law & Order), Bengaluru.
C K Meena, author of two books and a long-time Bangalorean, known for witty columns on life in Bengaluru’s ever-changing cityscape.
Deepika Nagabushan, a freelance photographer who likes to capture people and stories.
S T Ramesh (IPS), award winning Director General of Police (Training), for Karnataka.
Siri Srinivas, gen-next, a recently graduated-engineer from R V College of Engg, working at a global financial major.
Click here for maps and directions to NGMA.
On December 18th, Citizen Matters is co-hosting a panel discussion on ‘Is Bengaluru women-friendly’, at the National Gallery of Modern Art auditorium, Vasanth Nagar. As a precursor to the event, we talked several Bengaluru women on the public transport part of their lives, and here’s what we found out.
Crowded BMTC buses are a nightmare for many. Shubha Nair, an IT professional residing along Sarjapur Road, says, “It is common to see women being sexually harassed in crowded buses even in core areas of the city, day or night. In addition to male passengers, conductors also behave indecently, like leaning on women when there is space otherwise.”
Not enforcing rules on reserving seats for women, compounds problems. Often buses do not go till the last destination at night, forcing passengers to get down couple of stops before their destination. “Due to this, I try to take autos. But then auto drivers ask for twice or thrice the actual rate, knowing that women do not have other options late at night. So I either have to spend more or I have to find an auto before it gets late,” says Shubha.
Some say that core city areas are much safer than outskirts. Sabiha P, a Koramangala resident, says that commute within the city is comfortable. “In my previous job in Hebbal, it was unsafe to travel by bus after 8 pm. There would be only a few women in buses and most areas were not well-lit. But I never faced any problem traveling within city,” she says.
Sangeetha Ramakrishnan, a Jayanagar resident, disagrees. “Even Jayanagar 1st block, an elite area, has high rates of bag snatching and sexual harassment, despite all the police patrol. Many of my friends have been victims, even during mornings. One time I myself was chased by a man in a car at night, but was luckily rescued by the police patrolling the area. Honestly, many women avoid traveling at night.” She believes that buses are safer than autos. “I know women against whom there have even been murder attempts by auto drivers.”
Dilee A, an IT professional staying in Indira Nagar, says that Bangalore is comparatively safer, but bus conductors and auto drivers often treat women poorly. “They seem to be more rude to women. Auto drivers demand more money from women, as it is not easy for women to fight back,” she says. She prefers BMTC’s Vajra service (more commonly called Volvos afte the name of busmaker) as conductors are more courteous.
HG Jayalakshmi, General Secretary of the womens’ organization AIMSS (All India Mahila Samskritik Sanghatan), says that sexual harassment is higher near school and college campuses, and the perpetrators in these areas are mostly college boys. “From chain snatching to sexual harassment, women are targeted in public spaces all over the city. But rural areas could be more unsafe as less women travel in buses and the number of buses is lesser there,” she says.
While many prefer Volvos as they are safer and more comfortable, there are no Volvos towards many outer areas. More harassment is reported from 6-7 pm, when most people commute to home after work. Jeevanbheema Nagar resident Smitha Abraham says, “Last year, the IT company that I worked in, stopped providing bus service to employees as part of cost-cutting. There were no Volvo buses in my route and I often had to travel in two regular buses in the evening – first from Whitefield to KR Puram, and second from KR Puram to Old Madras Road. While getting down at the KR Puram Factory bus stop, lot of men would just hit or brush across, even when the bus was not crowded,” she says.
Ngaitlang Mary Tariang, Counsellor at NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) and resident of Ulsoor, says that reacting to the situation often drives molesters away. “Molestation is common in buses towards KR Puram and Ulsoor, where I travel regularly. Many girls hesitate to react, but most men go away quietly if you shout at them. I’ve not come across such cases in Volvos, probably as they are more spacious,” she says.
Jennifer S, a former Bangalore resident, talks about an instance of harassment she faced while in the city. “When I was sitting in a bus during the day, a man was leaning over me, almost sitting on my lap. Even though I asked him to move, he would not. Finally I loudly asked him to sit on my lap. People noticed this, and he got down at the next stop.”
So if you are lucky, tactics like shouting or drawing public’s attention may keep the molester away. But the question is if it is fair that women should have to be on their guard all the time. “If buses are made safer, most women would simply prefer using them,” says Shubha. ⊕