A march to reclaim public spaces for women

‘I will go out’ screamed the placards as women, men and children marched on Beach Road in Puducherry on Saturday evening. Schoolchildren, film actors, musicians, dancers and activists walked along the beach promenade to reclaim women’s rights to safe public spaces.

The idea of two women in Puducherry to express their solidarity with the movement against sexual harassment soon transformed into the #IWillGoOut Puducherry chapter of the nationwide campaign #IWillGoOut. “It is part of a movement that began after the incident of molestation that occurred on New Year’s Eve in Bengaluru. Puducherry has been relatively safer than other places. However, there is a lot of work to be done,” said R. Dona Aideau, who initiated with the peace march along with her friends in Puducherry.

She said that they spread the word through social media. “Puducherry is a tourist destination and for many foreigners, this place will give the first experience of Indian culture. It is imperative that both residents and travellers feel safe in public spaces in the city,” she added.

Martinican singer Erika Lernot stood in solidarity with the women. “Women should be able to walk without being molested at any point of time. Both men and women are walking together now to create a safe environment for women,” she said.

Shantanu, a youth who turned up to express solidarity with his friends, said: “Both men and women have the right to go out. The attitude of the police and politicians towards women has to change,” he said.

The movement questions the traditional notion of public spaces as the domain of men. It challenges the patriarchal culture that raises questions on a woman’s presence outside her home and blames her attitude and clothes for any act of violence or harassment. He added that apart from increased police patrolling, it is important that police are sensitised in handling cases of street violence against women, without resorting to victim shaming and blaming.

Nahid, one of the participants, demonstrated self-defence techniques on Beach Road. More than 100 people from Puducherry showed their solidarity with fellow citizens marching in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Nagpur, Thrissur, Lucknow etc to ensure all women, irrespective of caste, religion, community and economic status were able to move freely without fear of molestation or discrimination.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 8:14:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/A-march-to-reclaim-public-spaces-for-women/article17075158.ece

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