Mumbai: Is The City Of Dreams Safe For Women?

Even with these trailblazing steps taken by the authorities, the real question prevails: Is the city as safe as people deem it to be?

Mumbai: Is The City Of Dreams Safe For Women?

Women safety in Mumbai has been an intensely debated topic. These discussions tend to gain momentum when infamous incidents such as the Shakti Mills Gangrape Case, Saki Naka Rape Case, amongst others are reported. At the same time, however, many such occurrences transpire daily and tend to go unreported. What’s frightening to see is that such gruesome events have been normalized as a part of life and the public often turns a blind eye towards them.

The authorities, recently, after the dreadful affair at Saki Naka in Andheri, constituted the Nirbhaya Squad that is dedicated to women safety in the city. Even with these trailblazing steps taken by the authorities, the real question prevails: Is the city as safe as people deem it to be?

As a woman who has the “privilege” of living in the city of dreams, there have been times when fear has trickled down my spine while walking alone in the streets irrespective of the hour. As a woman in Mumbai, men trying to brush past you while walking is now normalized in my mind. 

Therefore, it would be fallacious to assume that the city is safe as many claim it to be. There is a fundamental issue in thought, with victim-blaming being woven into the very fabric of society.

Data goes to complement the same and highlights the unsafe milieu in the city. A 2020 report by NGO Praja, brought to light that Mumbai recorded some of the highest numbers in rape cases, sexual assault cases in public transport and sexual crimes against minors. A study by the same organization revealed that Mumbai was seeing a rise of 22 per cent in rape cases and 51 per cent in instances of sexual assault from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2020, there was 4,583 crime against women in Mumbai. Further, based on data released by Mumbai Police a total of 3,879 crimes against women were registered in 2021. These numbers go on to paint the picture of the reality of women security in Mumbai.

Apart from this, people in positions of power have made controversial statements on crime against women that show issues in their way of thinking. Recently, reports did the rounds that Mumbai Police Commissioner, Hemant Nagrale while commenting on the Saki Naka rape case said, “Police reached the crime spot within 10 minutes. It cannot be present at every crime location.” Is it appropriate for the chief of security of the city to state that the authority cannot be present at a crime location?

These figures of authority are supposed to echo the thoughts of their constituencies. While their responsibility is to ensure that the people’s needs are addressed, they go in the opposite direction by not being the reflection of the society they need to be.

At the same time, the “system” isn’t formulated keeping women safety in mind. Issues include problems in urban design planning such as badly-lit roads, social stigma with victim shaming hindering women from making their voices heard. The criminal justice system makes it arduous for victims by having them wade through a lengthy process filled with legal loopholes to attain justice.

Those on the other side would however deem the city to be safe since they juxtapose it to the situation of other metropolises. It would be incorrect to formulate an opinion through the same because the level of women safety in the city needs to be assessed on its own terms and not that of others.

The belief that women security can be defined by steps taken by authorities isn’t enough. What is also needed is accountability from the higher-ups. With the forthcoming BMC elections, women safety needs to be part of the corporation's manifesto and prominence needs to be accorded to it.

This can be done so by the civic body through formulating policies that include well-lit roads, CCTV surveillance, equitable public transport, a quick redressal system along with a shift to an inclusive mindset to ensure that women feel safe and protected.

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