Sunday night's incident when a young woman was molested by a bunch of unruly men at the Gateway of India has opened the city’s eyes to a brand new sleazy side to its existence.
New Delhi has always been a benchmark for safety for women and Mumbai has always taken pride in being far away from Delhi’s ugly reality as the crimes-against-women capital of the country. But that notion could soon change.
Data available with the Mumbai police reveals that in 2005, 382 cases of what section 354 of the Indian Penal Code defines as 'assault or criminal force with intent to outrage her modesty’ were registered. In 2006, this number dropped marginally to 355. But it still means at least one case of sexual assault a day.
Another section of the IPC deals with a similar nature of crime against women, though it is less grave. In 2006, 101 cases were registered under Section 509 of the IPC — ‘word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman’.
And these are cases registered with the police. A large number of cases do not even get registered. So, this number could be higher. Happy New Year.
"The safety of this city is getting eroded,” Nandita Shah, co-director, Akshara — a women’s resource centre — rued. According to Shah, ever since the dance bars shut, the numbers of women travelling late have dropped causing the few women who still do travel late, to feel insecure.
"Also, earlier people intervened a lot more easily if they saw women in distress. Today that sense of assurance is missing,” Shah stated.
PUKAR’s (People for Urban Knowledge, Action and Research) research project on gender and space revealed women do not feel an “unconditional right to public space” in Mumbai.
"They feel compelled to demonstrate their respectability in order to be worthy of 'protection',” Phadke added. “Women also feel the need to strategise to feel safe. Even in Mumbai they do not take safety for granted.”