An audit of women’s safety by Akshara Centre, an NGO, has revealed the extent of the sexual harassment women face at the city’s train stations. Of the 522 women commuters interviewed for the study, 30% said they have been stalked at stations, while 61% have felt an unwanted touch. Over half – 51% – of respondents said they have been subjected to lewd comments, while 56% reported being stared at. Akshara submitted the report to the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to enable them to implement appropriate safety measures.
Of the 522 women interviewed, 347 were regular commuters while 175 said that they travel by train “sometimes”. Tellingly, the study found that every one of the respondents – irrespective of the age, time of travel or choice of outfit – had faced sexual harassment in some form inside trains, at platforms or on footbridges.
Many respondents said Kurla and Dadar station are especially notorious for sexual harassment. And talking about specific instances, some respondents said they had been subjected to lewd comments such as “aati kya? (coming with me?)” at Sandhurst Road and Vidyavihar stations, while others spoke about beggars and drunk men travelling in the ladies’ compartment between Byculla and Sandhurst Road stations and using their hands to prevent women from alighting.
The study also revealed a troubling tendency among women to not report instances of sexual harassment; 42% of those interviewed said they have ignored sexual harassment faced by them or others out of fear of the consequences.
The study found that overcrowded trains, congested platforms, tapering staircases and narrow footbridges make train travel more dangerous for women as they provide opportunities for men to molest and harass them.
“We have compiled the results and are co-ordinating with the GRP, RPF and the railways to ensure that infrastructure and security are upgraded to correct the situation,” said Velkar.
The study found that many women are unaware of railway police help line numbers. It also revealed there was a dearth of policemen and policewomen at stations, and that women’s toilets are often in bad shape, with broken windows and doors that don’t close.
Akshara also conducted a campaign called ‘Aapne kya kiya?’ (‘What have you done?’) on Thursday. As part of the campaign, volunteers and policemen fanned out across three railway stations – CST, Dadar and Thane – holding placards to spread awareness about sexual harassment. “The aim is to ensure women commuters come forward and report incidents of sexual harassment in some way – through a police complaint, a social media post, or by informing other women,” said Snehal Velkar, co-ordinator, Akshara Centre.