When Namma Bengaluru welcomed the New Year in 2017, we as a city woke up to the harassment and molestation incidents across – shocking tales of how women were easy targets for perpetrators to express their joy, excitement, power, right and frustrations too. As a result, there was mayhem and lashing of comments, criticisms, and concerns across all forms of media – vocal expressions of might, right and a dare to fight!
Police was questioned repeatedly by everyone and all they said was they had tried everything they could and had maintained law and order and the incidents were beyond them. They were running to their safe spaces then! – The Safe Space being – Garb of Responsibility
When we questioned politicians they started running to their safe spaces to say that women should not wander around town in late hours, women should wear ‘appropriate’ clothes and hang around only with safe men! – The Safe Space being – Garb of Advice
The public at that time ran to their safety saying they were not aware that women around them were being harassed and that it must have happened when they were not looking – Safe Space being – Garb of Ignorance
This year, things were different. The High Court had ordered that there should not be a single incident of harassment On New Year’s Eve!
I was on the streets of MG Road, Brigade Road, Church Street, Residency Road and other parts of the CBD through the night into the wee hours of the new year. I was keen to see what has changed for women this year – and are we safer now? The High Court’s Order damn you!
This year, things were very different like I said earlier. The Brigade Road that I have grown up wandering in looked like an ocean of mud! This was the ‘Men’ and women in Khakhi deputed to ensure that no incident happened on the street – Only that Street?! We were not allowed on the streets after 11 pm and were super closely monitored all through ensuring we don’t hang out in groups, ensuring we keep walking unidirectionally towards the Residency Road junction and ensuring that men and women were almost never together! When I asked a couple of the ‘Men’ and women on duty they quickly mentioned that if men and women were not together, then women will be Safe! Wah Wah!
The next thing that was appalling is that Brigade Road had several walkways created. The regular road, the pavements on either side (believe me if you are on the road you cant get to the pavement and if on the pavement, forget about getting on the road), and a new pavement only for Family Women or Respected Women I was told. Why?! I asked him if Family Women don’t get molested, and pat came to the reply, they have their husbands to protect them?! I mean, are you serious? The cop was confused when I told him that I want to walk on this special path for women but with boys and girls I had with me, all of whom did not have families – he was horrified and asked me to just take the road!
Then came the icing on the cake – the cops on duty were all referred to as ‘Men’ on Duty despite more than half of them being women. So here we are talking about Women Safety as a city that has happily included the women force as part of men. No name for women in the force deputed that night in the colds of Namma Bengaluru!?
The new year dawned with almost nothing as harassment reported. My question is if you have removed people, dictated their movement, what else can one expect? How has behavior changed? This has become a feather in the cap for everyone to have created a Safer City for women and Namma Bengaluru is back on the map! Or is it?
I know maybe I’m overreacting. But, the point I’m making is its a huge battle for space in this world for women. We have a huge way to go. Our issues have become issues for votes, politics and quick funding to look good or a photo Op. We don’t really belong enough.
Our Safety is an issue that keeps everyone else Safe!!!