Danger stalks Mumbai’s women on our streets. And women’s wariness to speak out against harassment as well as men’s unwillingness to intervene when they are witness to such incidents of attack are making Mumbai more unsafe for women than we realise — or care to admit.
Ninety nine % of the city’s women said that sexual harassment on the street was their biggest safety concern. Sixty three % did not tell their families about the harassment they faced. Seventy eight % of the men said they did nothing to intervene on seeing an incident of harassment.
These and other chilling findings emerged from one of the largest surveys of its kind conducted by Hindustan Times, the Dadar-based women’s resource organisation, Akshara, and the market research company, Cfore.
For months now, HT has consistently kept alive its campaign, Make Mumbai Safer for Women. We have consistently reported on attacks on women, on people who have tried to make a difference, on what women can do to combat their vulnerability. On our Facebook page dedicated to the campaign (www.facebook. com/pages/Make-Mumbai-safer-for-women/161595063912153), 757 people have already pledged their support.
That campaign has now got bigger with Blow the Whistle, an initiative for which we have joined hands with Akshara. Today’s study — in which 4,255 women and 776 men across the city were polled — is just the beginning. Over the coming days, we will try to understand the precise nature and extent of the problem through a series of articles.
More importantly, in keeping with our constructive engagement with our city and our efforts to bring about change in your lives, we will try to point towards solutions. We shall explore how you can make a difference.
From January through October in 2011, the police registered 110 cases of rape, 473 of molestation, and 115 of kidnapping. Each figure is higher than the corresponding number of first information reports registered in each category for the whole of 2010.
But these figures present only a small part of the real picture. As our survey reveals, 95% of the women said that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Of these, 77% had faced such incidents more than twice in the past year. Only 4% reported the matter to the police. That is the true extent of the menace.
“These findings should be a wake-up call for those who believe that Mumbai continues to be a safe city for women,” said Nandita Gandhi, co-director of Akshara. “We seem to be spiralling towards a dangerous whirlpool of lawlessness.” You should not turn away. Be involved. Blow the whistle. Make Mumbai safer for women. It is time. — Editor