Life in Delhi is not easy if you are a female.
The Nirbhaya gang rape in December only brought to the attention of the whole country what every girl of the capital knew all along- the city is unsafe, very unsafe for women.
Let me tell you about what it is like to be a 20 year old female student in Delhi.
I live in north campus, the student hub. The area of Delhi University. Most PGs or paying guest accommodations and hostels for girls here have a strict deadline. Why would legally adult females need to be locked in at eight every night? Because their parents worry about them living in a city where rape is as common as the hooligans who roam the streets and tease girls. Very common, that is. While I am ideologically opposed to the idea of curfews for fully functioning adult females, I can understand the concern behind such rules.
Commuting is another problem. Most girls here make use of the metro to get to college or when they want to explore the city. These metros, in the general compartment, are quite often an open space for men to take advantage of the crowd and grope unsuspecting girls. Or simply stare at them and undress them mentally. The compartment reserved exclusively for females offers some respite. While many rant about how such reserved compartments are actually propagating more inequality between the sexes, let me tell you that until and unless the men in our country learn to keep their hands to themselves, equality is a faraway dream and reserved compartments are a good idea.
The autorickshaws of the city are the worst. My mother makes me note down the license number of every auto I get into and message it to her. Paranoid? Maybe. But the paranoia itself exists for a reason. The auto drivers, for their part, love to hike up their rates as soon as they see a single female. Especially if it is growing dark and they know that a woman will give in to their exorbitant rates for the fear of walking alone on a dark street.
What about the buses of the city, you ask me. Do you see how the word bus has such negative connotations after the December gang rape which happened inside a bus. The buses, besides, like the metros, are a hotspot for men to grope women.
Walking on the streets is just plain scary most of the times, but especially at night. Some areas are relatively more safe than others, but a woman will still quicken her pace in order to reach the safety of her room as soon as possible. She will look over her shoulder in fear at the slightest of sounds. She will ignore the men whistling and walk with her head down. What kind of a city is this where a woman has to think twice before stepping out of her house alone.
As the December incident proved, having a male friend along is also no guarantee of safety. But it does give the illusion of security. However, the very fact that a woman wants a man to walk her to the store after a certain hour speaks volumes about how very unsafe this city is.
Catcalls and eve teasing, along with whistles and Bollywood songs, become part and parcel of every girl’s life here. She encounters these every time she steps out of the house. She gets used to ignoring them. Who knows what confrontation might lead to? What is eve teasing right now could lead to rape tomorrow. What if the harassers turn violent? These are the thoughts that cross our mind when we bite our lips and walk on, convincing ourselves that we do not need to confront the roadside romeos to give them a taste of our chappals and a piece of our mind as we would actually have liked to.
A lot of colleges are now coming up with dress codes. Female students cannot wear shorts, for example, as they distract the boys. Stupid rules like these encourage the boys to think that they can stake a claim, stare and roam around like wild animals and it is the duty of the girls to remain locked up and ‘safe’, away from them.
It is not our duty to remain safe. It is your duty to keep it in your pants. To not rape. To not mentally undress women. To not stare at her exposed legs in shorts. To not sing out lyrics of sexist hindi songs every time you see a girl on the road. To not make her feel like an outsider in her own city. It is nobody’s duty to ‘remain’ safe. Safety should come naturally in every society simply because the men know how to behave.