We invited views from our readers asking them if Coimbatore was safe for women. A handful of women who wrote in (the letters were published on January 5) said they did feel oppressed, unsafe and uncomfortable. They had been groped, commented upon, pinched, stared at, and followed around. A majority of the letters were from men, who were fairly unanimous that Coimbatore was safe, the ‘culture’ of Coimbatore protected ‘their’ women, and as long as the ‘virus of Western culture’ was kept at bay, the ‘weaker sex’ should be all right. MetroPlus spoke to some women living and working across the city to get their opinion

MARY ELIZABETH

VOC Park

The road winding around Nehru Stadium and VOC Park is pockmarked with pushcarts selling chaat, noodles, sundal, kaalan, bajji and bonda. However, for a single woman after six p.m., the atmosphere peddles more fear than food. Trees shade loitering men on parked cars or bikes. It’s an age/class/education no-bar situation. From the full-bearded to boys sprouting stubble, from the lungi-clad to the brand-conscious, my five-foot frame is treated to a top-down scan — one that strips me naked despite the voluminous dupatta I’m hiding behind. Once the sun has fully set, the oppression is more blatant. It’s a stretch more shadowed than lit and from within the hideouts come keenly-worded comments — lucid and lewd observations on my breasts and behind. There’s also the hurdle of dodging bikers that speed down the one-way coming uncomfortably close. Where does one find a space to call one’s own?

SHANTHI

Race Course

Cars with tinted windows. One can barely make it out, but there are people inside. A couple of times cars have slowed down and the person has asked me if he can drop me off somewhere. There are pools of darkness even though the walking track side of the road has lights. All-men groups hang out smoking, laughing raucously and as you pass by, deliberately making snide remarks to one another. Though they do not look at me directly, I know they are commenting about me. Even outside cafes and eating places they stand in such a way that one is forced to talk to them to ask them to move. Race Course is scary even as early as 6.30 p.m. or so.

AMRITA

R.S. Puram

I never feel safe riding home after a day’s work. I live in Vadavalli and when I took a detour once via Narasipuram because of dug-up roads I was chased. Six men on three bikes followed me. I had to speed to get to a crowded place. I stopped on the road to Veera Keralam and only then did those guys ride off. The police lists 1091 as a helpline for women in distress. I have tried the number several times. I get a ringing tone, but no one picks up. Another time, in the same area, at 11 in the morning, boys who must be in class XI or XII, riding triples on a bike, kept veering close to my two-wheeler. Since it was morning, I stopped and glared at them and they went off.

LAKSHMI

Singanallur

I don’t know if I am being paranoid, but I have stopped going out for my walk at 5.45 a.m. as I used to. Now I wait for day break before I venture out. I have seen a guy with his trousers unzipped flashing, looking at me from the side of his eyes. It was disgusting. And as it is still dark and there is not much traffic, walkers have often been almost mowed down by speeding cars, all with tinted windows.

POOJA S.

DSP bus stop

The scene at this bus stop after 9 p.m., which serves as a connecting point to many arterial roads in the city, is intimidating. Many shops in the area are shut at that time.Cars cruise slowly near the bus stops especially if women are there. There are the usual men on bikes. Working women from nearby hotels, hospitals and industries take connecting buses from DSP. An elderly woman waits with her bags for a bus to Madukkarai. Five women, who work in a hotel there take a bus from here to Selvapuram. They all clutch their bags and move uncomfortably whenever they see a man approaching the bus stand. They engage in friendly banter with the fellow women passengers, hoping for safety in numbers.

MALATHI

Ukkadam

I work in a mall on Avanashi Road and dread the weekends. I live beyond Kovaipudur and it is a lonely wait at the Ukkadam bus stop and an equally lonely ride on the bus. The buses don’t stop inside the bus stand. You have to jostle with drunk men to board the buses on the main road.

I do think of taking a cab back home some days, but the fare eats into my earnings. So, I wait at the bus stop, scared, every single weekend.

MALATHI

Ukkadam

I work in a mall on Avanashi Road and dread the weekends. I live beyond Kovaipudur and it is a lonely wait at the Ukkadam bus stop and an equally lonely ride on the bus. The buses don’t stop inside the bus stand. You have to jostle with drunk men to board the buses on the main road.

I do think of taking a cab back home some days, but the fare eats into my earnings. So, I wait at the bus stop, scared, every single weekend.

JANAKI

Trichy Road

I live in Singanallur near the Housing End bus stop. This bus stop is notorious, especially after dark when men often misbehave with women. When I am alone, I usually talk aloud to myself to give men the impression that I have company. Last week, one of my neighbours got down from the bus and was walking back to her house around 7 p.m. A man blocked her way, grabbed her hands and forced her to listen as he said lewd things to her. As she tried to push him away, both of them fell down. The man quickly got up and ran away.

CHITRA & SEEMA

Avanashi Road (the stretch between the government medical college and SITRA)

Chitra: Walking down from Kasthuri Sreenivasan Trust to PSG College of Arts and Science on a Sunday after dark is a scary experience. Every time a car slows down behind me, my hair stands on end. There are few people on the ill-lit road.

Once, I was so uncomfortable that I flagged down a bus near Aravind Eye Hospital and got down at SITRA. I thought it was a bus terminus and I would be safer in a crowd. It was not so.

A motorcyclist rode past dangerously close, giving me the once over all the time. I just took the next available bus even thought it did not go to my destination.

Seema: I’ve been working for 10 years in an office here and try to leave my workplace latest by 6.30 p.m. After that, I don’t feel safe. The area near PSG College of Arts and Science and Government Polytechnic is dark and lonely. And, when there is a power cut, it is worse.

You can’t even duck when someone tries to grope you.

MAITHILI

LIC Road

From Avanashi Road towards the Central Prison, past VOC Park, it is a deserted stretch. I was walking to work at 10 a.m. and passed a man on a bike who was speaking on a phone. As I passed him, he looked up and said, ‘great b***s’. It was sick. I glared at him, and he just continued his conversation on his phone. At the same place, another time a guy on a bike came right up to us and blocked our way. When we said we would call the police, he just laughed at us but drove around. This is just outside the Central Prison. That is how without fear these hooligans are.

A.K. VISWANATHAN

Commissioner of Police, Coimbatore City

The city police force is being sensitised to accord priority and react to calls from women in distress. The best number to call is 100. Within five minutes, a patrol or police personnel will arrive on the scene. We are aware that there is eve-teasing in the city and we will act against offenders. But for this, we need the co-operation of the stake holders too. It has happened before that at the last moment in court, the complainant has retracted her earlier statement. Crimes against women may not entirely disappear, but exemplary punishment will act as a deterrent.

In addition to the numbers that are furnished below, they can call me at 94440-00029.

Police helplines

100 and 0422-2300970

Last week, a girl called from Singanallur stating that she was being teased. A team was immediately sent there and the boy apprehended.

Coimbatore Rural District 0422-2220077

East 0422-2580315

Central 0422-2301633

West 0422-2476869

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