The women’s shelter home in Mankhurd has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late — crowded and unsanitary livisng conditions and poor security top the list. One can safely say though that Mankhurd may not be the only destitute women’s shelter with these conditions. Mankhurd may only be one part of a widespread and common malaise.

First of all, the state needs many more shelter homes for women rescued from prostitution, and abuse. Because of the paucity of shelters, women are crammed into these homes. Shelters that may have a capacity of 50 or so may have at least 150 women living in them.

The overcrowded conditions would naturally result in unsanitary living and frustration for some women. While there are challenges in a space-starved city like Mumbai, it is important that the authorities look at opening more women’s shelters to alleviate this problem.

Living conditions too need to improve dramatically. While the numbers make it difficult to maintain hygienic conditions, an effort must be made to keep the shelters clean and up the quality of food. Maybe, the women can be roped in to the process. Knowledge of how clean, healthy living impacts mind and body positively need to be imparted to the women themselves by trained personnel. Infusing the women with a sense of pride in their surroundings may be half the battle won.

The Government also needs to take action on the security provided to these shelters. While reports of molestation and sexual abuse have cropped up, one has to question how women can regularly escape these shelters, hoodwinking security. More important than how, though, is why? Why do these women, rescued from a nightmarish existence want to go back to that, even after being put into a shelter? Is it that their living conditions were better than what the shelter offers? An uncomfortable question, which needs hard thinking and some answers.