The myth of a safe city

Ours is a safe city for women, apparently. It's what authorities have been saying for decades now. Look at Delhi, they point out. Look at how women there are afraid to step out after sunset. They then cite other cities as examples, using all kinds of statistics to prove how incidents of violence against women continue to drop year after year.

How, then, are we to view the arrest earlier this week of the member of a political party for allegedly demanding sexual favours from a housewife in his neighbourhood? How are we to account for the rape of an 18-year-old Dutch national in a rickshaw in the wee hours of December 26? What do we tell the parents of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez, who both died in 2011 as a result of an altercation that began with their female companions being teased?

The unvarnished truth is this: Most women who call Mumbai home consider sexual harassment the biggest risk to personal safety in public spaces. According to a recent study, the city's western region alone -- which Keenan and Reuben called home -- saw the police register 47 cases of rape, 145 cases of molestation and 66 cases of street sexual violence. Do these figures describe a city safe for women?

Irrespective of what the police and government officials would like us to believe, cases of violence against women continue to rise each year. To believe in the myth of a 'woman-friendly' city is to deny the presence of desperate people who look at every woman as a potential target. One of the first steps towards finding a solution to any problem is to recognise and accept that the problem exists. Violence in any form is despicable. To euphemistically call it 'eve-teasing' is to ignore and ultimately deny the truth.

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