We live in a society where we grew up watching movies where it is too easy to get a girl by following her on a road, teasing her, getting in the same bus as her, going in the same park where she goes. A lot of people actually believe and practice that and the cases of assault are common in public spaces. Being a “weaker Sex” in India, you have to think twice before going anywhere out alone in most parts of the country. Women commonly have to face street harassment, abusive words and wicked stares while moving in public spaces. Some public spaces are not safe for both genders as incidents of robbery, murder, assault etc. are common in news. In some of the cases mentioned below, the people involved were assaulted, humiliated and even murdered by some of the abusers which have the so called Public Spaces as their activity areas:

“In yet another shocking case of sexual assault, a 30-year-old engineering graduate from Tumakuru was raped by two security guards in the Cubbon Park late on Wednesday night.”- Bengaluru, November 12, 2015- The Hindu.

“Three juveniles, who had robbed a woman at knifepoint at Chennai Park railway station, were sent to an observation home by Government Railway Police (GRP) on Saturday.”- Chennai Sep 28, 2015- The Times of India.

“In a robbery bid, a site incharge of a private company working on the Noida-Greater Noida metro line, was shot dead near FNG road on Tuesday”.- Noida- Nov 10, 2015- the Times of India.

Apart from all the cases and major mishaps which occur in Public areas like bombings, Gang wars, Chaos etc., let’s focus on the term STREET HARRASMENT. It may be described as unwanted in person comments and physical contacts which are abusive and sexual in nature. There have been many Social Experiments related to girls in Public spaces in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai which give us a glimpse of what the women have to face daily. There are incidents of Cat calls, Abusive words, indecent behavior including touching, groping etc.

Is it an issue which can be tackled by Planners? Planners plan for spaces for everyone’s use. Due to such incidents there is a fear among people, especially the females, to use such spaces. Planning such spaces is not productive as people are not able to use these spaces equally. Women feel a lack of safety in most planned public spaces even in broad daylight. This clearly indicates that their Rights as citizens of the country to move in their cities freely are being violated and disrespected. The concept of Friendly spaces may be Utopian for them. We are talking about making smart cities, but first let us make them safe cities. The most important tool for planners to plan for safe spots is via public participation. Removing Vendors and street hawkers in Smart city Proposals is very questionable as these informal sector workers are located at various spots and help to make an area “Active.” Lack of the Informal sector workers may result in creating areas of non-activity and hence they could result in dark spots.

Most of the Acid attacks on females took place on roads and in broad daylight.

And let’s not confine ourselves to the cities, talking about villages, every day we read in local newspapers about some random girl getting raped or killed while going to relieve herself in village grounds because of non-availability of toilets in their houses.

This among many other issues need to be addressed if we want to make better environments for the females of our country.

  • Help may be initially taken from people of the community. They can help identify such unsafe areas and then accordingly arrangements can be made for security like installation of CCTV’s, Police etc.
  • Women and men police in disguise may be allotted to such places.
  • Safety mapping of areas may be followed so that everyone can access such kind of information.
  • Identification of Non- active areas and converting them into Vendor zones or other activity zones.
  • Educating people as a part of the larger campaign is necessary. It is not about the apparel the other gender is wearing, it is all about how you behave otherwise.

Please suggest more Planning measures for creating Harassment free Public Spaces at ananyabhatia91@gmail.com

Author – Ananya Bhatia