It’s the age of women’s emancipation and the fairer sex is asserting itself like never before, perhaps to make up for the past lapses in equality. However, the surge in cases of sexual harassment is casting a shadow on their newfound freedom.
The city’s burgeoning nightlife is addictive. But stepping out for a drink late in the night is no longer a viable option for women, be it alone or with friends.
Brimming with people, discotheques, lounges and pubs may be considered relatively safe for women. Ironically, these hotspots are where women come under the prying eyes of men.
There have been reports of men indulging in eve-teasing, sexual assault and even molestation under the influence of liquor, putting a serious question mark on the safety of women.
While pubs and discos provide secure environs to women due to the presence of bouncers, the scenario outside these joints can give jitters to anyone.
“I mostly hang out with my friends in a pub. Men stationed outside discos pass snide remarks and give lecherous stares. But we feel safe inside the premises as there are bouncers. The problem begins when we leave and men pursue us. We ensure to go in a group and use our own cars,” says Meghna Kapoor (23), a city-based student.
Adding to this, women claimed that the police ‘willfully’ turned a blind eye to miscreants. Besides, PCR vehicles are only stationed at strategic locations, such as entry points of pubs and discos, making it difficult to approach them in distress.
“Ideally, discotheques and pubs should close at 1 am on Wednesdays and Fridays, and by 2 am on weekends. This is possible only with the intervention of police. Surprisingly, police personnel get drunk themselves and are ‘bribed’ to let off miscreants,” said a city-based woman bouncer on the condition of anonymity.
She claimed that whenever she called up the Police Control Room for help, cops on duty ‘advised’ her to stay out of it.
“If at all the police arrive, they harass the complainant by probing aimlessly,” she added. What’s worse, the woman bouncer said she did not feel safe herself travelling at night.
“I am in danger of being attacked by men who I had accosted in pubs,” she says. To avoid any untoward incident, a few pub owners claimed to close down their premises at the stipulated time.
“Chandigarh isn’t a place where there are many single party-goers. People mostly come in groups, and if women get drunk, their friends are asked to take care of them. On our end, we prefer to close down at the stipulated time to avoid any brush with law,” says Vipul Dua, owner of Peddlers, a restaurant-cum-bar in Sector 35, Chandigarh.
Be it drinking at a club with friends or going for a late night movie show, women feel insecure at all times.
“I feel safe when going for a late night movie with family. But when it comes to going with friends, we are careful. It is like inviting trouble. Some miscreants keep tabs on women during the movie interval and stalk them when the film is over,” says Anmol Chhavi Gupta (23), a city-based PR professional.
On the contrary, there are some who say women under the influence of liquor invite trouble themselves.
The tricity has witnessed numerous cases in the past when drunk women created ruckus at public places.
“More than boys, it’s the girls who are responsible for the harassment that they face. They get drunk and this gives men an opportunity to assault them. The only way out is to drink reasonably,” says Kiran Thakur, lady bouncer at Score, Sector 8, Chandigarh.
Refuting the sexist claim, Inderpreet Singh, manager of Kapsons in Sector 17, stated, “People should drink sensibly. Be it a man or woman, they should know how to hold their drink. Also, owners of pubs and discos should ensure adequate security on the premises.”
Tomorrow: Unsafe spots
Whom they idolise
Female role models Chandigarh Mohali Panchkula
Politicians – Indira Gandhi/Sonia Gandhi 7 7 7
Actresses – Bipasha/ Katrina/Angelina 42 39 38
Sportswomen – Sania Mirza/Steffi Graf 0 2 1
Kiran Bedi 7 3 21
Mother/sister/teacher 20 30 18
(All figures in %)
Katrina, bipasha role models
Looking attractive is important to women in the tricity
Nearly 77% women in the tricity feel it is important for a woman to look beautiful. While 81% women in the city echo the same thought, 70% females in Panchkula are of similar opinion, according to the HT-IDC survey on women safety.The feeling is extremely strong in the 31-45 years age-group with 91% women considering looking beautiful as important. In Chandigarh, 100% women in this age group are of same opinion. And, this preference gets reflected in their choice of role models too, with a majority of them preferring glam girls like Katrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu and Angelia Jolie over women such as Indira Gandhi and Kiran Bedi, and iconic sportswomen such as Sania Mirza and Steffi Graf.
Need for social change
Dr Rainuka Dagar
‘Such small shorts … go change or we will take these off too,’ shout out the arduous brigade of youngsters acting like the moral police, encircling the girls’ hostel.
Boys running after girls has been popularly accepted as the ‘law of nature.’
Imposing checks and controls over what girls wear, how they behave, whom they meet, are all legitimised as ‘culture’. And if girls do not abide, they are said to invite harassment and abuse. Boys can look, but girls should not show or assert.
Social change is taking place fast in some spheres while traditional practices continue to be part of Chandigarh’s multi-faceted persona. The city has live-in relationships, women are heading offices and industries, single women are adopting children, men take pride in cooking and decorating their homes, best friends are no longer of the same gender, groups of boys and girls are travelling out together.
Simultaneously, Indian culture is booming — Karva Chauth richly drapes the city markets and women, Raksha Bandhan load the brothers’ wrists and honour, Tikka (Bhai Dooj) marks the foreheads with responsibility, and the bride ushers in her lavish Sangeet with ‘Sheela ki Jawani’. Add to this mix the migrants, industrial workers and traditionalists who enjoy the item number, but maintain that female respectability is bound to her conduct and distance from men. What is a right in one setting becomes an invitation in another.
But, neither the modernity nor the traditional challenges, the growing market for sexuality, the expression of power or the overriding individual need collective responsibility.
Being attractive is a resource for 77% of the girls, yet decline in moral values (39.6%), movies and internet are blamed for encouraging female harassment (12.7%). Boys want to flaunt their cars and money (21.1%), girls their clothes and bodies (9.6%), leading to harassment, say tricity residents. “Those who have muscle and money power think they can get away with murder, what to say of harassing girls,” said a respondent in the HT-IDC survey.
No one wants to be accountable for their own behaviour and wants law enforcement’s stringent punishment (34.4%) and heavy policing (23.8%) to act as a magic wand to sweep aside their value endorsements that objectify sexuality and celebrate the abuse of money and muscle.
If you want safer cities, are need to ensure propriety in your own conduct, locality or workplace? As Francis Bacon wrote, ‘It is left only to God and angels to be lookers on.’
(The writer is director of research, gender studies, Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh)
‘I paid and left the saloon. But the incident still haunts me’
A couple of months ago, I bought a saloon deal from a shopping website for a pedicure and haircut. I did not know what was in store for me. A first-timer at the particular saloon, I did not know any of the workers. The owner sent a male attendant to do my pedicure. While massaging my legs, the male worker touched me inappropriately. I was startled and thought it was by mistake. But he repeated the act. I pulled away and asked him to stop the massage. He did not relent, giving me a smirk instead. “I have just started. Are you not enjoying yourself?” he asked me. I did not want to get into an argument, pulled away and walked out after paying for the service.
The disclosed the incident to my mother and she advised me to get over it. “There are men who behave in such a manner. A girl has to take care of herself,” my mother said. I am still trying to forget the incident.
The writer is a 19-year-old college student
Are discos, pubs or late-night shows safe for women?
Dire need for change
I don’t go to clubs to avoid such situations. Nowadays, you don’t really know what exactly a safe place is. Blaming cops or the system is unjustified. Change has to begin from the grass-root level. If one is taught to respect women from kindergarten, he won’t objectify women later.
Tahira Kashyap, author
City police are active
Chandigarh has become a safe place for girls ever since SSP Naunihal Singh took charge. The city police have been very active. I have noticed that until girls don’t invite trouble themselves, boys don’t create any problem. Mostly, girls make the first move by teasing boys and then approach the cops when things start getting worse.
Jassi Kaur, anchor
I was chased to my place
Night life in Chandigarh is safe only if a man is accompanying you. Once I went with a group of girls to party, but a few boys didn’t let us enjoy. They were under influence of liquor. Though we left the place, they chased us to our place. We had to call the police.
Manreet Kaur, actor
Raise your voice
In 90% situations, girls face sexual harassment of some kind. If a girl objects, boys don’t make the next move. But if a girl keeps ignoring, they get emboldened. People in Chandigarh are quite decent. Boys hailing from Punjab and Haryana harass girls more.
Arya Pal, DJ
CLUBS NOT SAFE FOR WOMEN
Be it my girlfriend or sister, I will never advise them to go to a club. Boys think clubs provide them an opportunity to get close to girls who are drunk. Though I don’t go clubbing, I have heard clubs are not safe for women. Only a strict management at such places can help ensure safety of women.
Jassi Gill, singer
Share your story
It’s a matter often discussed in drawing rooms, but seldom does it lead to introspection. HT invites readers — male and female — to write in with their experiences, personal and witnessed, of sexual harassment. You can choose to keep your identity hidden, and try to write in not over 250 words. Keep in mind, each story will add to the collective consciousness of a society that needs cleansing. Play your part. Talk to us at firstname.lastname@example.org