From the 21st to 31st of January 2017, Jagori in partnership with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) ran a campaign – using public messaging across 10 metro stations urging each and every citizen to take action to end violence. These banners across the metro stations carried simple messages that encouraged bystanders to take action to end violence.
Women and girls are speaking out/ reporting against sexual harassment on the metro, and responsive mechanisms are in place to book offenders. The DMRC on its website claims to improve safety of women passengers through provision of separate coaches for women on every train, reservation of seats for women on every coach and other measures including CCTV cameras, and deployment of CISF personnel to nab offenders.
[View pictures here. To read a pdf version, click here]
Yet, commuters feel that there is much to be done. They recommend a more effective presence of CISF personnel to ensure that men and boys do not enter the “Women Only” coaches; physical separation between these and general coaches, and strict action against those who unlawfully enter.
“The number of women speaking out is not enough” says a young woman commuter at Vishwavidyalaya metro station. “We see incidents of harassment every single day”, adds a young man. While some commuters are despondent and feel that women’s safety is just a dream never to be realized, others are hopeful and determined to continue the struggle - “Efforts such as this, of building awareness of men and women on the issue, will go a long way”, they say. Given the huge footfall across the ten metro stations, it is believed that the messaging will reach out extensively to passers by.
As well known feminist activist Kamla Bhasin puts it, “When some men are violent, will other men just stand and remain silent?” Looking at the poster, a young man resolves “On my part, I will be more aware, and I will also beware of those who perceive women negatively”. Another commuter says, “Women must be allowed to go out and participate, and we must contribute to create a safer city for them”
Rising incidence of sexual harassment on the metro and other public transport systems across the city, points to the urgent need to go beyond the victim, perpetrator and law enforcement agencies when looking for solutions. There is need for a collective mindset and behavior that shows zero tolerance to violence of any kind. The active engagement of men and boys is required to make this possible; clearly the benefits of such a change will reach not only women, children, disabled persons, senior citizens and other vulnerable people, but also their own selves.
When communities collect data on safety perceptions in their locality and share findings with relevant stakeholders – possibilities for participation and action are generated. Sarita Baloni of Jagori cites the example of women’s collectives in Tajpur Pahadi, Badarpur (South Delhi). When they shared their findings, local authorities responded by installing CCTV cameras in front of the local Barat Ghar (Wedding Hall); and took up improvement of lighting and public toilets in the area.
The participation of citizens in the creation of safe cities goes with a wider range of actions that are being undertaken by State and non-State actors including the DMRC. For example, the New Delhi Municipal Council in partnership with Safetipin is using mobile-enabled safety audit data on the perceptions of safety around metro stations within the NDMC area to enhance last mile connectivity. Safetipin is also sharing safety audit data with the Delhi Police and the Public Works Department to identify areas that are dark, unsafe and need to be improved. The Department of Tourism, Government of Delhi, is using safety audit data to ensure the safety of tourists around specific locations.
Recently, over 30 cities across India witnessed a large turnout of women, girls and their supporters claiming their right to use the public spaces in the city (#IWillGoOut). Women are demanding safety in the form of safe transport, well lit roads, well constructed pavements, safe access to sanitation, better planned cities, responsive law enforcement, legal and medical care, and timely psychosocial support. But they are also asking for more – they are also asking for unconditional freedoms whose boundaries are defined only by humanity, diversity, inclusion and peace, and they believe that continuous action is the only way to ensure this.