“Look on your right, and look on your left. Watch your back.
Always watch all around you when you cross a lonely stretch of road, especially in the evening darkness.
Never walk while talking on mobile, without being fully alert.
Always remember, no place is safe for women, even big cities.”
Whenever Sumana calls her mother at her home in Siliguri, she has got to hear these words.
Sumana Chatterjee works in an IT company in Kolkata. She lives alone in a one BHK apartment in Kolkata in a gated community.
She feels quite safe in her community.
However, she cannot miss the increasing cases of violence toward women in all Indian cities. There are more cases than are exposed with screaming headlines in newspapers and TV channels.
Violence toward women is a concern in all the big cities, and no city is bereft of this malaise.
Crimes against Women are Increasing in almost Every City
Women’s safety is a big issue in India’s buzzing metropolises. As night becomes darker, the city becomes more dangerous for women.
Delhi is probably the most notorious big city with a massive number of criminal incidents. It seems that the number of violence against women is rising every year.
Even last year, there has been a 17.51% surge in the number of rape cases.
The situation in the financial capital of India, Mumbai, is no better. Crimes against women are alarmingly going up here too.
Crimes against women and children are on the rise in the city. According to the Mumbai Crime Report 2021, 3,879 cases of crimes against women were registered in 2021 compared to 3,317 in 2020.
Let’s find out the situation in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley.
Crimes against women rose in Bangalore in 2021 compared to 2020, although modestly. In spite of being the IT Capital of India and a highly educated population, the dark underbelly of violence against women is as alive as ever.
Interestingly, according to the data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2020, Kolkata is the safest large city in India. The number of heinous crimes is also slowly decreasing here in the last few years.
Women Need to Stay in Big Cities Alone
These days women need to stay in big cities because of their careers. And even when you can stay with other women you need to take care of yourself.
Danger can be lurking anywhere, and you should be cautious of the circle of known men too. Data says, in about 99% of the cases the victims are known to the criminal.
It is not always possible to stay in groups. Sometimes, you have got to stay alone.
It is preferable to stay in a gated residential complex than a standalone building. Almost all residential complexes have elaborate security arrangements. Standalone buildings lack in this respect.
Even then, you need to take certain precautions.
It is better to be safe than sorry.
Let’s discuss them now.
Take Adequate Precautions
These days, women often need to stay late at work and move around at odd hours. Although there are plenty of professional opportunities, there are also safety hazards of being on your own in a big city. But there are ways to ensure that you stay safe.
Find safe accommodation
Finding safe rental accommodation can get somewhat difficult for a single woman. Nevertheless, choose a walled residential complex in a respectable locality rather than independent houses.
Before you decide on a home, research the neighbourhood, the distance of your home from the main road, public transport availability, and previous criminal history of the area.
Look for apartments that have a proper security arrangement — CCTV, guard, and visitor’s book.
Ensure safe travel
If you are traveling on work on an assignment, ensure that your company arranges safe accommodation for you. Also, carry names of reliable contact persons in case you find any difficulty.
Always be careful in your apartment
In the apartment, make sure your door is always latched when you are home. Never leave your balcony door open at night. Generally, draw the curtains closed when you are too visible from outside, especially at night.
When you order food or have to pay off milkmen, or other vendors, don’t leave the door open. Take the items from the door itself and don’t allow them to step inside. Never let in strangers when you are alone. If you are living alone, get an alarm system installed. Look through the keyhole before opening the door. Preferably get a security chain attached, and only open as far as it will allow.
Report any strangers loitering in your neighbourhood or people asking vague questions about your neighbours.
You should learn some lessons in self-defense if are staying alone. Nowadays, there are many institutes where you can practice a martial art form.
Carry pepper spray. The government has now subsidized the rates of pepper spray and they are easily available at chemist’s shops. You can also carry chili powder if you don’t have pepper spray with you. Spray in the eyes (of a potential attacker/stalker) and run.
Use transport wisely
If you travel in your own car, never keep your home and car keys together. Look around you while getting in and out of your car, especially in a desolate parking lot.
If you use public transport, be watchful of co-passengers. If you are uncomfortable because of a gut feeling of danger, don’t get in or get out immediately.
Be alert while riding on an app cab. Many cases of harassment happened in-app cabs. Use the SOS button in case any emergency.
Remember, the dreaded Nirbhaya incident took place on a bus.
While walking outdoors
The most important thing you can do is stay in well-travelled residential areas. Avoid isolated areas.
Never wear headphones while walking or jogging outside. It not only increases the likelihood that you will not hear someone approach from behind but doing so sends a clear message to the outside world that you are not attuned to your surroundings and hence vulnerable.
Always assume hostile intent from strangers and keep your distance. Remember, many attacks are preceded by one of these three questions: ‘May I use your phone?’, ‘What time is it?’ and ‘Do you know how to get to…?’
Use Women’s Helplines and Safety Apps
Another good way to take care of your safety is by using a variety of women’s helplines and security apps for women.
Always ensure that your mobile phone is well-charged. Carry a fully charged power bank too.
Keep all relevant helpline numbers on your phone
For women in distress, the national helpline number is 1091.
For Kolkata Metro Railway, the women’s helpline is 9007041908.
Add your friends’ or relatives’ phone numbers to your phone contact list. You can SOS them with your location in the case of any difficulty through special services from telecom operators like Vodafone or Airtel.
In addition, there are a number of women’s security apps on the Google play store. There are also apps by the police departments in different cities to report any incident immediately. Download them.
Never Let Your Guard Down
If you are staying in a big city alone like Sumana, never let your guard down. Even innocuous situations can turn ugly.
There have been cases of molestations by drunken colleagues on the pretext of escorting a woman co-worker home. If you are even slightly suspicious, just avoid riding home with drunken men.
Be alert even at parties or social gatherings. Avoid drinking alcohol if you don’t know everyone well. It is sometimes poisoned with drugs by persons with criminal intent.
However, in spite of being careful, there is no need to develop any paranoia.
Taking care of your safety needs will slowly become your second nature if you follow the above advice.