Unlike Delhi, Bangalore does not carry the tag of being a ‘dangerous’ city for women. However, police records on crimes against women, or even a cursory reading of the newspapers, would convince anyone that homes, streets and workplaces in the city are not really safe for women.
Newspapers in the last one week alone have reported two horrifying cases of rape and an attack on three women in their house that resulted in the murder of one of them. These are besides cases of harassment, domestic violence or unnatural death that are not ‘sensational’ enough to grab media attention or don’t even reach the police station.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2011 (the latest available) shows that Bangalore is the second highest contributor in terms of percentage share to the overall national figures of crimes against women. Bangalore moved up from position three to two from 2010 to 2011 on this count, replacing Hyderabad.
Bangalore recorded 1,570 crimes against women in 2010 according to the NCRB report, while it was 1,890 in 2011. Curiously, the figures provided on the floor of the House for the same years do not match this (see table).
The NCRB records 605 cases (70.7 per cent) under the Dowry Prohibition Act for 2011 in Bangalore. The city ranks number four in rape cases at 3.8 per cent, with Delhi at the top (17.6 per cent), followed by Mumbai and Bhopal. The state capital ranks fourth in cases of kidnapping and molestation.
As the city is expanding beyond its capacity and its demography changing faster than one can comprehend, women are feeling increasingly insecure in Bangalore. There is no denying that they have achieved greater mobility, physically and metaphorically, in the last two decades as they have joined the labour force both at the top-end IT and ITeS sectors and in the ever-expanding informal workforce. But there has not been a comparable effort to make workplaces and streets safe for women.
While safety of women has been hugely debated across the nation after the Delhi gang-rape case of December 2012, political parties in Karnataka seem to be at best paying lip service to the issue in their manifestos ahead of the May 5 Assembly elections.
In what is perhaps the height of tokenism, the Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to rename the women’s commission as ‘women’s rights commission’, while Congress has a one-line reference to women’s safety. Only Janata Dal (Secular) seems to have some out-of-the box ideas.
The Justice Verma committee report came out with multidimensional proposals to address the issue of women’s safety, but not surprisingly, none of the manifestos even refers to it.
Political parties, which have barely given representation to women while distributing ticket for the election, can hardly be expected to treat their safety as a priority.