61% women on Mumbai's Central line felt unwanted touching: reports

Mumbai: Around 61 per cent of woman local train commuters on Central Railway's 'main' line have faced sexual harassment in the form of unwanted touching, according to a safety audit conducted by an NGO.

Alarmingly, various forms of harassment exist irrespective of age and dressing style of women commuters, and overcrowding appears to be the main culprit.

"A total of 522 women were interviewed as part of our project and 56.13 per cent respondents reported the problem of staring, while 51.34 per cent complained of receiving comments," said Nandita Shah, Co-Director, 'Akshara'.

She released the audit report during an awareness campaign launched by the Central Railway and Akshara. The women surveyed were asked about their experience of sexual harassment while travelling in suburban trains, called as lifeline of Mumbai.

"Some women also named more serious forms of sexual harassment, like stalking (29.69 per cent), flashing (14.37 per cent) and groping 15.52 (per cent) as risks they have to face while travelling," the report stated.

Commenting on the survey, Central Railway Chief Security Commissioner A K Singh said, "We are already aware of these sorts of complaints and corrective measures have also been put in place to curb such incidents".

He said the survey will come handy in effective deployment of security personnel.

According to the report, "Women face harassment on platforms, on (foot-over) bridges and on trains. Every woman has been subjected to some or other kind of harassment while travelling irrespective of her age, time of commute and dress she is wearing".

The survey says that most of women fall prey to deliberate pushing and inappropriate touching during rush hours. Jozi Helland, an American social worker, who is in India on a research fellowship and also interviewed
participants of the survey, said, "Though such kind of incidents (sexual harassment) take place in US too, but here in Mumbai, overcrowding makes all the difference".

When contacted, RPF Assistant Security Commissioner, CR, Debashmita Chattopadhyay, who heads 'Shakti' squad of RPF women constables to curb such incidences, said, "We have deployed enough female security forces in plain cloths at vulnerable place and as a result our women RPF staff has handcuffed several male offenders."

The CR's Mumbai suburban network, called as Central or Main Line, consists of 24 stations from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (C.S.T.) to Kalyan junction. The Central Line consists of three major corridors,
which bifurcate as they run into suburban satellite towns at Kalyan, Kasara and Khopoli.

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