LADY, d'you feel SAFE in OUR town?

One can never be too careful when it comes to safety. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy.

One can never be too careful when it comes to safety. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy.  

THE RAPE of the Swedish diplomat in New Delhi in a moving car and of a middle-aged mother in Patna, twice in the space of two hours, last week are brutal reminders that women, like in many other cities around the world, are not safe in ours too. The women of Bangalore may not be vulnerable as those in the national capital, but we can't pop open that champagne bottle as yet.

While rape has not been reported much in the media in the last few weeks in the city, there have been several murders where the victims have been women. One can recall the recent murder of a homemaker in a well-populated apartment complex, and several other murders that have created much insecurity in families about leaving women alone at home. Many cases of rape and physical assault may have gone unreported, like in cities elsewhere, but such incidents do rattle Bangaloreans.

Shashi stays in Indiranagar. She is alone at home when her daughter goes to college and her husband to work. Shashi believes times are such that you can't trust anyone. "I feel it is better to be rude and check who is at the door than to trust and open, only to regret later. I open the door only a fraction with the chain still attached. My two dogs also help. They make such a din that a prospective robber or mugger will fear breaking into my house."

Smita, the wife of a techie who lives in Yelahanka, also agrees it is better to be safe than sorry. "I never open the door even to the courier chap. I always tell him to come in the evening when my husband is back from work. I know that it inconveniences us, and the courier chap, of course, but I can't really take a chance. There are other young married women in this building who take the same precautions as me."

Vanitha, a mother of two living in Koramangala, agrees that recent murders of women have affected the psyche of most people around her. "We are lucky that we have our own security guard and chauffeur, but some of my friends who have neither feel quite insecure. Despite the help available, I worry a lot about my daughter. I can relax only once she is back from school."

Sheron, on the other hand, lives in a fairly secure government employees' residential area (HAL Senior Officers Colony on Old Madras Road) and while she is apparently unperturbed, she cannot entirely ignore safety considerations. "This place is so safe that there have been times when my husband and I have rushed out of town for urgent work without worrying about our teenaged daughter. Leaving her with the maid has sufficed in terms of care and security for her."

LADY, d'you feel SAFE in OUR town?

Monica, in her early 30s, shares a flat in Austin Town with another female colleague. "I know there is cause for worry, but I don't allow it to occupy my mind. I have chosen (to live) life on my own terms as a single person, and fear for my security comes with the package. You cannot ask a fighter pilot whether he would fear crashing."

It is difficult to refute the perception that women in Bangalore, particularly those who stay alone or are single, do feel anxious about their safety. Murali Raj, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Manipal Hospital, says extreme fear can bring about depression, anxiety, paranoia and even fainting spells in some. To counter these, Dr. Raj suggests yoga, meditation, physical fitness, and a circle of friends.

The police, on their part, while they don't agree there has been a rise in crime against women in the city, have been sensitive to the issue. Police Commissioner S. Mariswamy says police are focussed on safety in high-rise apartments as well as isolated houses. "The police are guiding and training security guards at apartments to keep a close watch on visitors. Isolated houses are also being monitored through regular beats."

The Commissioner also said the police do not hesitate in acting on complaints of sexual harassment. "We take immediate action in approaching the person accused and issue him a warning. So, there should be no diffidence on the part of the women in reporting harassment. It is only once the complaint has been lodged that the police can take action. Offering protection when crimes are not reported is difficult. Women should know that they have our support. We understand that they are soft targets for criminal elements."

Mr. Mariswamy has a word of advice to all Bangaloreans. "Do not flaunt your wealth." When asked if the police sponsored self-defence classes for women, he said they were certainly open to the idea and would extend all help if any organisation were to approach them.

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