The city may be the party centre of the national capital region (NCR) but venturing out alone at night is still unimaginable for most women in Gurgaon. Dark stretches, unreliable public transport and lack of adequate security makes the situation daunting for thousands of women in the city, who may claim to be independent but are confined to their homes after dark for the fear of being molested.
Life for women in Gurgaon continues to be difficult despite tall claims and efforts made by state agencies to make the city safer.
The Gurgaon police commissioner, Navdeep Singh Virk, says that criminal behaviour is as old as civilization itself but admits that a safer environment and better infrastructure could play an important role in checking crime against women.
A year-long survey by SafetiPin, a social enterprise that provides technology solutions to make cities safer for women, reveals that Gurgaon scores less than average on physical and social parameters, which are crucial for women safety.
Experts point out that women working in the city face sexual harassment due to poorly planned environment. They say that campaigns, such as the recently held Operation Romeo Free Gurgaon by the police, have had limited impact.
“It’s not easy to live in this city. Miscreants often harass me and follow me while returning home at night. Though I have not complained to my parents, as I do not want them to be tensed, I am left with no option as I can’t afford to limit my working hours and leave early as the amount I am paid by this employer alone is good enough. I will have to work at five other places to compensate for the income I receive from this employer,” says Tulsi Kumari, a 19-year-old from Kanpur who works as a domestic help at a residence in Sector 17B.
Tulsi Kumari lives in a rented accommodation at Sirhaul village with her mother and two sisters. She has been working as a domestic help in Gurgaon for the last one year. The family moved from Kanpur after a relative informed them of better opportunities in Gurgaon to earn more.
Migrant workers in the city are constantly intimidated, especially in urbanised villages and also while using shared autorickshaws. Those employed in spas, salons and restaurants are often harassed while returning home after sunset.
“I find it difficult to travel from work to home at night and often ask my friends to pick me up. We have also formed a group to commute together at night as bystanders pass lewd comments at women who are walking alone,” said 21-year-old Muan Manlun, who works at a spa in a mall on the MG Road.
Manlun is a native of Churachandpur in Manipur and has been living at a rented accommodation in Sikanderpur village for the last two years. Manlun returns home around 10.30pm every day.
She recalls how an autorickshaw driver recently, in an act of harassment, told her that he would pay her a lot of money if she would massage him and his group of friends.
“When I started shouting at him, he called his friends and they started passed lewd comments and I had to leave the place immediately,” she said.
Women say that walking home is not a safe option as most of the roads lack streetlights, have poor visibility, low police presence and also face problems in communicating due to language barriers. They also alleged that foreign migrants sometimes face racial abuse.
Majority of the women argue that there is a need to improve basic services in Gurgaon to create a safer environment. They say that things are not going to change unless the police department takes action.