Women of all classes face harassment as part of their daily lives. School and college students in the age group of 15-19 years and women workers in the unorganized sectors are particularly vulnerable, a survey on the safety of women in Delhi has said.
Harassment occurs during day and night and in all kinds of public spaces, both secluded and crowded. Public transport, buses and roadsides are reported as spaces where women and girls face high levels of sexual harassment with the most common form of harassment being verbal (passing comments) and visual (staring and leering) and physical (touching/groping, and leaning over.)
The survey further states, almost two out of every three women reported facing incidents of sexual harassment between 2-5 times in the past year. Three out of every five women reported facing sexual harassment not only after dark but in day time as well. High proportion of men and ‘common witnesses' that is almost nine out of every 10 respondents claimed having witnessed incidents of sexual harassment of women after dark and during the day time as well.
Poor infrastructure (including poor or absent streetlights), unusable pavements, lack of public toilets, open usage of drugs and alcohol are major reasons behind the lack of safety.
The burden of ensuring safety remains upon women. They try to ensure their own safety by not visiting certain places, staying indoors after dark, maintaining a dress code, and carrying pepper spray and safety pins etc.
A high percentage of women, around 68 per cent dealt with harassment in some way; such as: confronting the perpetrator, seeking help from family and friends. Concerted efforts to sensitize people including the youth as partners in creating safer cities and conducive environments;
The survey was an outcome of a joint action research initiative was undertaken by the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Delhi, JAGORI, UNIFEM South Asia Regional Office and UN Habitat. Titled Safe City Free of Violence for Women and Girls, this baseline survey is based on a sample of 5,010 women and men, undertaken during the period January - March 2010 by New Concept Information Systems, New Delhi and JAGORI to identify factors that create greater safety and inclusion for women in public spaces around the city.
The survey gathered and analyzed information about the nature and forms of gender-based violence and/or harassment faced by women, role of governing agencies and the police in safeguarding women's rights, and societal perceptions and attitudes to sexual harassment. The survey covered 23 areas and 50 interview sites. The total sample of 5,010 included 3,816 women, 944 men and 250 common witnesses.
The findings of the survey and its recommendations, and stakeholder dialogues are part of the Strategic Framework that will guide interventions to make Delhi a safer city for women, especially those from vulnerable groups. A large number of stakeholders have been consulted in the process of preparation of the strategic framework to date, and many more are planned.