2. Planning Gender-Safe Public Spaces and Transport
COULD THE gangrape have been prevented if our public spaces had been made safe for women? In the conversations on how to prevent such crimes, Delhibased NGO Jagori has been conducting safety audits in the city since 2007. In 2010, it put together a comprehensive document on how women need access to the city just as much as men. But for them to actually live up to the promise of equality, some basics need to be in place:
• Adequate street lighting
• Proper maintenance of public spaces
• Clean, safe and adequate toilets for both men and women — male public toilets should be redesigned so that they don’t open out on the street
• Well-designed bus stops, with voice announcements
• Safer public transport
• Bringing back street hawkers in public spaces and bus stops as they act as the “eyes on the street”, making them safer for women
A simple but essential measure that could go a long way is to widen the pavements. “If you are a woman walking on a very narrow pavement, and you see a man walking towards you, instinctively you will step off the pavement,” says Jagori’s Kalpana Vishwanath.
Transport is another crucial area where Jagori has made some interventions. In 2008, it partnered with Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) to make buses safer for women. Signages were designed and 3,800 bus drivers and conductors were put through one-hour training programmes on how to pay attention to the predicament of women on buses. Many drivers said the fact of men “falling onto women” when the driver slams the brakes was never seen by them before as deliberate or a violation. Now, in the DTC training programme for drivers, a module on gender sensitivity is an essential part, albeit for 30 minutes of the total two-hour training.
Another example comes from Mumbai. An umbrella group of community organisations called Aastha Parivaar set up a rapid response system five years ago to deal with violence committed against sex workers by their clients and the police. The system has been described by an observer to be as efficient as the dabbawallas. In case of distress, a sex worker’s call is responded to within 30 minutes.