That urban planning is a gender concept is globally known. A glance at our footpaths and lanes bears testimony to the fact that safety of women hardly figures on the priority list of city planners.
The situation has only deteriorated over the past few years with women having to tread extremely cautiously in these spaces.
In the past few years, our footpaths seem to be shrinking further allowing very little space for women to walk. Not only this, poorly-lit stretches and parks make women feel insecure and vulnerable.
A survey conducted by an NGO, Plan India, this year found that girls felt comparatively safer when people were around.
“Girls we interviewed said they avoided afternoon and night as streets were usually empty during these hours. They know the locations where streetlights are either not there or not functioning so if they have to go to these places, they ask their family members to accompany them,” states the Plan India report.
Girls spoke about how they have to plan and negotiate their mobility in order to move around in their own neighbourhood. Girls avoid venturing out alone after dark in a large number of places, including community toilets, tuition classes, market and parks.
“It is not necessary that they might have faced harassment but it is their perception that empty and dark roads are unsafe and hence are best avoided. Three major changes that are required to make them feel safe are: Lighting on the streets, well-maintained parks and safety at the bus stops and outside Metro stations,” said Lilly Vishwanathan, senior program manager of Plan India.
The report highlights major concerns of women, including absence of lights in parks and other public places, boys in groups harassing them. It was found that bus stops are a favourite hangout place for boys to harass girls.
The report focused on violence against women in public spaces.
“Men don’t fear accessing any of these places in the city while girls do. Majority of the girls said they feel scared going out alone to public facilities, including school, market, garbage station and expressed comfort at locations such as inside the school or tuition classes where they are in company of other girls,” the report said.
A similar survey was undertaken by NGO Jagori with the Delhi government to find infrastructural problems that make women feel unsafe in the city. The survey had pointed out that the presence of street vendors makes women feel safe and women were of the view that they should be allowed on the main roads as deserted roads make them feel vulnerable.
After the horrific gang rape of a 23-year-old woman last year, Delhi Police too had carried out an exercise to map the most vulnerable areas in the city, especially for women.
According to police officers, the list was prepared keeping many factors in mind such as routes taken by working women who return home in the evening or those working with BPOs who travel from home to officer or vice-versa during the night.