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Why women feel safer in city

Most women believe that Mumbai is safer than any other metro in the country. Whether it’s commuting alone or late at night, the city scores better than others. Studies show women are relatively more secure in public spaces too.

mumbai Updated: May 12, 2010 02:03 IST
Purva Mehra
Purva Mehra
Hindustan Times

It comes as little surprise that Mumbai ranks as the safest city in India for women, according to the results of the Hindustan Times-IPSOS Indica Research study.

According to this city-wide survey, conducted as part of the landmark Mumbai First initiative that seeks to examine in depth the city’s aspirations and misgivings, more than 56 per cent think that the city is still the safest for women in India. The results also stated that 32 per cent felt safe travelling alone late at night, while 54 per cent felt somewhat safe to do so.

Hindustan Times surveyed 10,374 people, asking them what their main concerns about the city were. We then asked them to pick their top two concerns from the initial lists.

We then divided the larger pool of respondents into several smaller groups based on their top two concerns. Typically, every respondent was part of two smaller groups, each of which corresponded to one concern. We then asked these smaller groups detailed questions about their respective concerns. Law and order was one of the top two concerns for 977 respondents.

These results are the silver lining in a survey that also highlights in depth the city’s grievances such as water shortages and the high cost of living.

A three-year Pukar gender and space study focused on women’s access to public space in Mumbai indicated that there are more women in public spaces in Mumbai and that they are relatively safer here compared to other cities. “However, their access to public space is still conditional and they don’t feel the same claim to public space as men do,” said Sameera Khan, one of three research associates at Pukar, who collaborated on this three-year research project.

However, the perception of them ‘feeling safer’ than women elsewhere did not imply that they have equal and unrestrained access to public space like men.

“Women have to constantly strategise in order to remain safe or comfortable — they do this by weighing where they choose to go and where not, what they wear, by seeking company and so on. Mumbai women cannot take their safety for granted and have to always manufacture it for themselves day in and day out,” said Khan, whose research with Shilpa Ranade and Shilpa Phadke will be published by Penguin Books India later this year, under the title Why Loiter.

Strategy is key to how public relations professional Pallavi Swaraj ensures her safety in Mumbai. Since Swaraj’s move to Nerul eight months ago, she makes certain to dress appropriately during late evening commutes on the Harbour line, from her workplace in Santacruz. “When I was living in Andheri, I felt safer travelling alone until late at night. But Navi Mumbai is a different set-up. I generally carry a shawl, don’t wear short clothes and try not to take a train back home after 9.30 pm; I opt for a radio taxi instead,” said Swaraj (28).

However, having lived in Delhi and Patna, Swaraj vouches that in comparison Mumbai is the safest by far. “Friends of mine have used the police helpline when hooligans entered the ladies compartment and the response time was commendable,” said Swaraj.

“Within a short while of visiting Delhi, we realised that for a woman to venture out after 8 pm is totally unadvisable. We felt unsafe even while travelling as a group of women,” said Ameesha Dedhia, a 24-year-old health expert.

Dedhia commutes from Borivli to Churchgate daily by train, often as late as 11 pm, without having to worry about her safety. “The sense of security in Mumbai is compounded only after you’ve lived and travelled alone in other metros,” Dedhia said.

First Published: May 12, 2010 02:00 IST