By Sanjana Gosh:
I come from a country where women are worshipped as goddesses and killed before birth at the same time; a country where everyone talks about democracy and equality and yet women have different standards from their clothing to timings of their public presence.
Why I understand this better and it bothers me more is because I come from the capital of this ‘great’ nation- New Delhi. This ancient city was once known for its magnificent architecture, the lip-smacking food and the hotspot of country’s politics is now only feared as a place that’s ‘unsafe’ for women. One incident was enough to shake the soul of this nation. The ‘Nirbhaya’ incident tagged Delhi as the destination of molestation, harassment and rape of women.
Since I’ve been living in Bengaluru, it’s been hard on me too. On my first day to college a friend asked me, “So you are from Delhi? Really, isn’t it difficult staying there, especially for girls? I’ve clearly told my younger sister to go anywhere in India but not Delhi.” No matter how good Delhi is in many other respects, his words hit me like a brutal but true sword. I couldn’t defend Delhi or myself.
Many of my friends moved out of Delhi for higher studies. While Delhi has some of the best colleges in India, our safety is a priority too. Social media may troll Delhi for being the hub of crime against women, but this issue is much more serious than it is portrayed.
After the new years’ eve incident in Bengaluru, the city is not far from having a similar reputation. Increasing crowd in the city has given rise to many crimes. IT hub of the country is now coming next in line to Delhi.
Every day, girls everywhere have to encounter several problems while commuting- at work, in college, at home or during leisure times. Three major problems being:
One can easily find such incidents in the metro, streets, buses, autos and even homes on a daily basis. Victims of molestation who retaliate, are questioned by the police and often turned into culprits for the clothes they were wearing, the time of the day or something even more trivial.
There are growing numbers of harassment cases at work. This is yet another problem faced by most women on a daily basis. What is required to get a promotion or increment, in general? Hard work, good command over the process, excellent skills and good experience. These are the basic requirements and expectations from an employee to be eligible for promotions in every organisation of the world. But that is sometimes not enough for girls. They are often expected to please their bosses, cooperate with their inappropriate remarks and touches, and sometimes have to sleep with them to get a promotion. But why do women have to go through this? Sadly, if women do surrender to such behaviour, then they earn the reputation of a ‘corporate slut’.
Girls are facing it not only in parks also in malls, trial rooms, paying guest accommodations and public washrooms. There are many incidents when couples who are looking for some intimate moments in parks, get caught by peeping toms who later harass and extort money from them.
Likewise, there are several problems that girls face on a regular basis such as eve-teasing, vulgar stares and comments on their assets, but our government is as helpless as it was at the time of Nirbhaya case’. Till today, girls all around the country, rural as well as urban areas, have to face such problems on a daily basis and there is no stringent law implemented by the government or civil authorities. When ministers and officials are asked about such cases in the country, they blame girls for their sense of dressing.
When I joined college, I came across S.A.F.E (Students Against Female Exploitation) which surfaced in Electronics City, Bengaluru following the scarring events of 16th December 2012. A student-teacher duo from IFIM Institutions, Professor Rajarshi Chakraborty and Tauqir Eqbal founded the platform in February 2013. The SAFE movement was officially launched on February 16, which was marked by the creation of the SAFE Facebook page and conducting awareness activities within the college.
Very often women are harassed at home, they are scared of walking dark corners alone after sunset and being mistreated. Domestic violence to molestation to even rape, SAFE is a completely student-run and volunteer-driven movement and has tie-ups with ELCITA (Electronics City Industrial Township Authority) and the Electronics City Police. Any woman who feels unsafe can dial the helpline number and within minutes, students from the SAFE committee reach out immediately. What began in 2013 as just a helpline is now promoted through Kanyathon, an annual 5k-10k run and women and men in and around E-city are made aware of the cell.
Over the past four years since its founding, SAFE has been very actively working and helping women get the treatment and justice they deserve. Aiming to extend SAFE’s reach to more areas in Bengaluru, an app will soon be launched along with SAFE cells in more colleges. With the local police not ready to accept that another helpline other than 100 should exist, Professor Chakraborty has a lot to say “They aren’t ready to accept another helpline when 100 still exists. But, the difference is, the response is quicker with SAFE.”
SAFE has been a huge help to women in and around Electronics City with at least a few dozen women related cases have been solved by SAFE.
Not just Electronics City, the aim is to spread SAFE across the city through various other colleges and establish SAFE cells in each with the launching of an app.
I was very happy to be a part of this. Girls are often left helpless when they come across situations of threat to personal safety. S.A.F.E is the platform that is dependable. Comprising of a young bunch of students who are much more aware of the situations around them and the problems women face, they take their task as a service to humanity.
SAFE Helpline number : 9611216862