In a city where 900 PCR vans keep vigil and 84,000 policemen work to make it secure, random strangers sexually harass women in public areas and manage to get away with it.
HT-C fore survey has revealed that 88% women who faced harassment in the city did not know the harasser. About 43% said it was just a random stranger. Or it was a drunkard on the street, according to 17% respondents. Even a group of local boys has harassed 15% respondents.
“It is so surprising that the number of drug addicts, drunkards and loafers on the street are more than the number of beat constables. I have often spotted men drinking in their cars on the roadside. They fondly call it car-o-bar! Where is the crackdown?” said 25-year-old Heena Kohli who lives near Old Delhi.
According to 2,557 respondents, the number one cause that makes women feel unsafe are the men taking alcohol or dealing with drugs.
Lack of effective or visible policing, general lack of respect for women, poor lighting and lack of safe public toilets were other things that lead to harassment in the city.
With safety in public transport still a far cry, five percent women said they were even harassed by autorickshaw drivers. Four percent were harassed by students. That such men start young, is supported by the response of 54% percent women who remembered their harasser to be in the age group of 17-30 years.
This does not mean that men in their forties shy away from making any woman uncomfortable. Thirty percent women shared in the survey that their harasser could be as old as 45 years while eight percent believed he must have been older. While 33% women said they did nothing to take the harasser to task, only five percent actually confronted the perpetrator.
“It’s a shame we don’t teach our girls how to deal with such situations. Often parents too ask them to simply ignore the harasser for their own safety. It’s important to have self-defence classes in schools and training girls not to feel scared in front of a harasser,” said Shruti Kaushish, a social science teacher in a south Delhi school. “Also, simple things like keeping some numbers on speed-dial, learning to use safety apps, giving details of the auto or taxi to parents or spouse when travelling alone are important,” she added.
In 26% cases, women had asked help from family members. Twenty-nine percent sought help from friends and 15% from bystanders. Thirty-eight percent women shouted at the harasser while a mere five percent showed the courage to physically stop him. Twenty-seven percent women managed to gather a crowd to ensure their safety. Only 17% women said they managed to get support from passersby.
Respondents feel the steps to make Delhi safer should begin with making men more sensitive followed by severely punishing the harasser. A gender-sensitive police force, learning self-defence, creating helplines for different means of public transport and more security personnel.