Women scared, insecure in west zone | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Women scared, insecure in west zone

Reshma Pereira (name changed), 16, was followed by a driver for more than three weeks on Bandra’s 27th Road before residents in the area lodged a police complaint and got the man arrested.

mumbai Updated: Dec 27, 2011 01:13 IST

Reshma Pereira (name changed), 16, was followed by a driver for more than three weeks on Bandra’s 27th Road before residents in the area lodged a police complaint and got the man arrested.

Bandra’s 27th Road is a residential area, but houses several bars and restaurants and patrons' cars often line the entire stretch of the road. "Till the wee hours, we have chauffeurs waiting for owners on the street outside the bar. They spend their time playing cards, leering at women walking by and at times we have even seen them drinking beer," said Manuela Saldanha from the ‘Revival Citizens Group', an advance locality management (ALM) that represents Bandra's 27th, 28th and 31st Roads.

"In Reshma's case, one driver took a shine to her and stalked her for several weeks. The driver was arrested after we lodged a complaint, but as it is a bailable offence, that driver is back on the same street," Saldanha said.

Bandra's 27th Road is perhaps a microcosm for the entire western region, where residential colonies are peppered with bars and restaurants. As a result, the western suburbs of Bandra, Khar, Andheri, Oshiwara witness a floating population and has seen a steady influx of junior artistes, nouveau riche and single working professionals.

Police and municipal corporators said these fast-paced cultural shifts, a markedly liberal and modern lifestyle may have led this region to earn the notoriety of being most unsafe for women.

For women, living in the western region areas of Khar, Oshiwara and Jogeshwari spells greater fear and insecurity. "Every night, you have youngsters zooming through bylanes of Khar and Lokhandwala in their cars playing loud music. Most of them are under the influence of alcohol or drugs," said Anjum Shah, 21, a resident of Lokhandwala.

College principals blame the high density of the young population in the western region as the primary cause for the rise in crime. "Young people living here are leading a life on the go," said Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew's College, Bandra.

"The presence of many colleges and bars in the same vicinity can be a possible reason for women being harassed often. I also feel that women from these areas don't hesitate to file sexual harassment cases, which might have resulted in a spike in the overall cases registered," said Suhas Warke, deputy commissioner of police, Zone 10.

Ashish Shelar, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator from Khar, said that inadequate policing and a clash of lifestyles might be responsible for the increased insecurity that women feel.

Juhu corporator Adolf D'souza said the lack of strict deterrents was causing a growing audacity of crimes against women.

Reshma, who has been a daily victim of sexual harassment, feels that the one of the solutions is to make eve-teasing and other sexual harassment offences non-bailable.

"After getting out on bail, the driver who stalked me stands outside my colony and smiles every time I walk out. I continue to live in fear," rued Reshma.