A young girl molested by a mob of 50 men has alarmed and shocked many. How safe are the streets of Hyderabad for girls, asks Sohini Chakravorty
Planning a casual evening with friends or going out for a party in the night can be quite a task for any girl in the city. How is she returning home? Is she going alone or will she be with friends? Will any of her friends drop her home or will she have to take public transport? These and other similar questions regarding the safety of girls play on the mind, especially in the light of the shocking and shameful incident in Guwahati where a young girl was brutally molested by a mob of 50 men. The crowd in Guwahati had the time to record the entire incident but nobody offered any help; even the police arrived a good half and hour later. In a nation where it is fine to watch a gyrating Katrina Kaif or Kareena Kapoor with family members, a girl found making liqueur chocolates in the privacy of her home seems to be enough provocation for the so called moral police to become instantly active and vocal.
Hyderabad is a city which takes pride in its cosmopolitan crowd and an active party scene. But how safe is the city for girls who step out of their house in the night to have some fun? “If I go out in the night, it’s always in a group of three or more,” says 20-year-old graduate Vaishnavi Padala. She usually uses the public transport for commuting and makes it a point to avoid certain areas in the city which are isolated. “If I am wearing a sleeveless dress, I usually wear a jacket on top so that I don’t attract attention,” she says. Though she says that it doesn’t matter what any girl is wearing, “Eve-teasers make comments even when you are dressed in kurta and churidar,” she says. Many girls also prefer carrying pepper spray and safety pins in their bags to ward off unruly advances.
For PR professional Prathyusha Sharma, late night hours are a part of the job. “But I have a few trusted colleagues who always drop me home and keep checking on me on phone till I have reach home,” she says. Most of the BPO and call centres in the city ensure that there is a security personnel apart from the driver in every cab that operates late in the night. The women employees are not allowed to sleep in the cab and it is the job of the security person to escort her into the house.
Most of the girls however agree that once inside a restaurant or pub, it is safe. The question of safety arises only outside the pub. Often men (not guests) just stand around staring at the girls coming out. “I had gone out to a pub with a group of friends. When we were driving back home, a group of men on bikes chased us. But we ignored and lost them after sometime,” remembers Ria Banerjee, an MNC employee.
However, 28-year-old marketing consultant Arunlekha Sengupta points out that most girls are cautious when going out at night. Steps like carrying an extra stole, booking a cab in advance are planned, but the problem arises when you are caught unawares during the day. “I had just stepped outside my house and a group of boys started hooting and making comments. The shopkeepers around my house have seen me grow up but nobody protested. I just went ahead and beat them up myself,” she says.
While the girls need to ensure their safety, who will question the men who take joy in molesting, insulting, beating and ganging up against a lone girl? Can anyone ensure that this doesn’t happen again?
Girls should be cautious and be accompanied by friends at night. They should not drive alone. In case there is a problem a friend should be there to call for help. They need to be very careful in parking lots and park in crowded places instead of isolated places. They should park where there are CCTV cameras installed. The best line of defence is to first get away from the place and then call the police. Sometimes putting up a fight or reacting doesn’t work. When in trouble, dial 100 and police protection will be despatched within five to eight minutes from the nearest police station.
- Stephen Ravindra, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad