In India’s Cities, Women Should Work, Thrive, and Loiter – The Asia Foundation

They say that India lives in its villages, but this is changing. In 30 years, some 60 percent of India’s population will live in cities. Larger metros such as New Delhi or Mumbai are already grappling with the challenges presented by the constant influx of rural migrants. These megacities are growing rapidly, while their governments are playing catch-up. Access to civic amenities, services, and safe and efficient public transportation is still difficult to come by. This gap affects women even more than men. India’s smaller cities and towns are growing too; but standing at an earlier stage of their development, they still have the flexibility to plan for growth that is inclusive of women and sensitive to their needs. The Asia Foundation has been promoting women’s security, particularly in urban spaces, for several years. With support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), we have expanded our focus to include India’s smaller cities and towns, which also have fairly poor indicators when it comes to women’s safety. Based on our observations in the Indian cities of Bhopal, Gwalior, and Jodhpur, there are three principal factors that contribute to these unsafe circumstances. First, women are largely invisible in India’s cities. They tend to avoid spending time in public spaces without a specific reason to be there, and they certainly do not do so alone. Working-class women have little occasion for recreation, and using public spaces for such purposes remains a largely foreign concept. To end this public invisibility, women need to claim public spaces as their own. Second, society incorrectly assumes that a woman’s safety is only a woman’s problem, and most narratives place the onus of women’s security on the individual. If it’s unsafe to meet friends at night, she should stay home. If attacked in a poorly lit street, she should learn martial arts to defend herself. If she is sexually harassed on a crowded bus, she should use a safety pin or a hair clip to poke the offender to teach him a lesson. If she is harassed on the street while walking, she should choose more conservative… Read more

Source: In India’s Cities, Women Should Work, Thrive, and Loiter – The Asia Foundation