HYDERABAD: The term public space loses meaning if a large chunk of population feels unsafe venturing there. According to a recent study, one in three girls in India, aged 11 to 18, felt unsafe while venturing into public spaces. The study, WINGS 2018—A Study on the Perception of Girl’s Safety in Public Spaces, was conducted by the NGO ‘Save the Children’.
About 5,400 girls living in six states, including Telangana, were surveyed. Shockingly, one in two girls surveyed in Telangana said they found travelling by public transport unsafe. So was the case across the other five states. Public transport was perceived as the most unsafe space by adolescent girls.
This was followed by other places like narrow bylanes in the neighbourhood, local markets, roads leading to tuition centres or schools and even places of open defecation. “We already know that the situation is bad for women, but with this study, we wanted to understand what young girls felt about safety,” said Vikas Gora, regional head of Save the Children.
“It’s a kind of feedback from the girls about the existing safety mechanisms we have put in place. For instance, many children do not know about the 1098 helpline. If they do, they don’t really know how it’s to be used,” said Gora. The report also tried to draw a link between parental fears of girls getting harassed or molested and early marriages and school dropouts.
Interestingly, the study also tried to understand what young boys think of women’s safety in public places. A whopping 44 per cent of the boys and parents of young girls surveyed felt that if a girl was harassed, she was probably “asking for it”. They did not think public spaces were unsafe for women.
“The most problematic part of the report is that 49 per cent adolescent boys think the government is only worried about women’s rights. This prejudiced mentality is what we need to work on. In my capacity, I will push for serious gender sensitisation concepts to be embedded in our curriculum,” said Tripurana Venkata Ratnam, advisor to National Commission of Women.
“All these data on crimes against women are just the tip of an iceberg,” warned Inspector General of Police (Women’s Safety) Swati Lakra. “We need a multi-pronged action, starting from educating our children about safe and unsafe touch and what to do in such situations,” she said.