How safe is the city? A few women techies share their thoughts and experiences

Thanks to the likes of Bunty Chors and rumours of a ‘Black man’ roaming the streets, daily reports of molestations, chain-snatching, rapes and the like, these are jittery times we live in. Due to their variable work schedules that sometimes see them working late night shifts, many women techies feel they (depending on who you ask) are among the most vulnerable.

Despite positive steps by the Government such as the Kerala Protection of Privacy and Dignity of Women Bill – a first-of-its-kind endeavour in the country – set to be introduced in the Legislative Assembly session beginning today (February 1), safety remains a big concern for women techies. Says Parvathy Prasad, a business development manager who works for a multi-national company (MNC) at its office in Kesavadasapuram: “To an extent the system works, but ultimately, I know full well that I myself am responsible for my safety and that of my two kids.”

Parvathy is not alone in her thoughts. “Absolutely right!” agree corporate communications personnel Anjana Gopinath and techie Rohini S. Pillai, both of who work for MNCs in Technopark. Avoiding late nights is how Rohini tries to tackle the problem.

Techie Devi Chandrika adds: “I travel by public transport. If I find myself travelling alone, I make sure that I tell someone where I am going so that if needed they can keep track.”

Her colleague Jeejo Jose adds: “You have to be alert all the time. Unfortunately, women are sitting targets, especially if they find themselves alone at night. If I have to work late, I usually take the work at home option that my company allows.”

These are not off-hand observations, say the women. Most of them say that they have either experienced first-hand unwarranted situations themselves or have witnessed untoward advances to other women.

Says Parvathy: “Once, I found myself in a situation where I had to drive back home by myself, sometime after midnight. Because I had a vehicle of my own, I had declined company-offered transportation – which in retrospect I should have taken up; it is by far the safest transportation currently available in such situations. Driving my car alone through the deserted Ulloor-Pattom-Kesavadasapuram-Sreekariyam route was quite strange. There was not a soul in sight.”

Anjana adds: “I have been living near Technopark for eight years now. Although I often travel on my scooter at night and regularly go out with friends and family at night, I myself have never faced any such situation in the city per se. But I have witnessed the harassment of young women techies, many of them from outside the State, who live in the nearby hostels and paying guest facilities.” She proceeds to graphically recount “disturbing” incidents where she saw a passerby on a motorbike trying to harass a couple of young women who were walking on the pavement and another where a young woman was molested in the lane in front of her house.

The women feel that public transport and well-lit roads are a must to make travel safe for women.

Rohini adds: “I too live near Technopark and apart from company transportation there is nothing concrete for the security of women, especially those who live in and around the area. If there are any emergency numbers or emergency contact personnel, I am not aware of it.” Anjana chips in: “Since the Delhi gang rape incident, the authorities seem to have amped up security by putting up streetlights and increasing patrolling, but in my opinion not where it is needed. For instance, on both sides of the highway leading to Technopark there are dense bushes with virtually no streetlights. There are many – men and women – who walk the road to and from work. You won’t even know if someone is hiding there.”

Nonetheless, most of the techies, especially those who have also lived outside the State, opine that the city is quite safe and largely because of that all of them seem to find the city a great place to live. “On a scale of one to 10, I’d actually rate the city closer to 10 in terms of living conditions and safety – but that may also be because I have my family and friends around for support,” says Parvathy. Adds Jeejo: “I find the city much safer than say Bangalore, where I lived for a few years. It comes down to general attitudes towards women, I guess.”

Devi, meanwhile, thinks that the city would be a much safer place if there were “reliable and frequent public transportation late into the night”. And so the discussions continues with techies trying to ensure their safety in various ways.