It Took A Pandemic For Us Women To Be Safe From Street Harassment
I was getting late for my class and so I rushed into the general coach of the Metro. Thankfully, I found a seat beside a middle-aged man who was busy on his phone. I took the seat and plugged in my earphones. Not a few minutes had passed when I noticed he was continuously staring at me. Initially, I ignored him, but then I began feeling uncomfortable and nervous. I started fidgeting and distracting myself. Fear gripped me. Why is he staring at me? What is he up to? And then the clock struck 7 and I opened my eyes with a sigh “Thank God, it is a lockdown. I don’t have to take a metro!”
But I wonder how it has taken a pandemic and the complete lockdown of the country for this sigh of relief that I am safe. What does this say about the state of women’s safety in India? When this lockdown ends, will our public spaces go back to being hostile to us?
Sense of safety
Groping, staring, eve-teasing, the fear that someone is following you, and the paranoia induced by incessant coverage of such incidences and those that are worse are a part of a woman’s everyday life. To some extent, stepping out of our homes is a challenge as there is no certainty what the person walking behind us has in mind. Pepper spray, kitchen knifes et all are now essentials, to be pack in the bag before walking out of home. You have to be sure that your phone is charged. That you have police on speed dial. That you get back home before it gets too late, or too secluded on the road that you take.
After the lockdown ends and the country is back on its normal routine, will the short span of partial women’s safety end too? Will the daily struggle of a woman to ensure her safety resume?
But ever since the country went under nation-wide lockdown, this fear has somewhat diminished. Though the current situation is one of the biggest challenges that the country is battling, it cannot be denied that most women are feeling safer than never before. No one is out in the streets to follow, eve tease or stare. No one will grope you on your way to work. You don’t have to worry about the shadows lurking in the dark on your way back. So the danger that women might have from the outsiders of being molested or raped has comparatively reduced. In fact, Delhi Police has claimed that since the lockdown, heinous crimes like rape and murder have decreased by over 75 percent.
Why It Needed A Pandemic To Ensure Women’s Safety?
However, this feeling of being safe is paradoxically is coming to us at possibly the most hazardous situation we may have encountered in our lifetime. To ensure women’s safety, the most basic human right, did we really need a pandemic that has put a hold on the normal lifestyle? This shows how it takes drastic measures even today, to make the world a safer place for women. Besides, to keep women safe if we have to lock everyone inside their houses including women, then it is like patriarchy proving itself right that women should not step out if they want to be safe. It is important to note here that even though lockdown has reduced the danger for women from the outsiders, staying at home for many isn’t safe. The cases and complaints of domestic violence in the country have seen a surge since the government imposed the country-wide lockdown. In just eight days, between March 24 and April 1, NCW received around 69 complaints of domestic violence. So, should we call the safety we have now as a partial or temporary relief? Is it a compromise that in order to be safe from the outsiders, women will have to bear the violence staying inside?
This feeling of being safe is paradoxically is coming to us at possibly the most hazardous situation we may have encountered in our lifetime.
Will The Struggle Resume After The Lockdown?
After the lockdown ends and the country is back on its normal routine, will the short span of partial women’s safety end too? Will the daily struggle of a woman to ensure her safety resume? Perhaps, the answer is yes. Why? Because it isn’t a pressing priority for our society. Even under the lockdown the concern over safety of women stuck with abusive partners, for instance, caught our attention only when such incidences and related data came to light. It had to be pointed out. The women health workers who have to stay out to serve the patients are still being molested, as per reports. Women’s safety remains compromised, even during the lockdown.
The day when the lockdown end, and I take the Metro I know for sure, that a man will be sitting right next to me, staring at me, telling me how everything is still the same.
Rudrani Kumari is an intern at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.