GUWAHATI, June 13: At a time when the incidents of harassment on women in various forms and places is creating an anxiety, recent findings of ‘A study on the perception of girls’ safety in public spaces’ conducted by ‘Save the Children’ has portrayed a gloomy landscape intensifying the phenomenon.
According to the findings of the study, 60% of the adolescent girls expressed feeling unsafe in streets or other public places with inadequate lighting. One in three adolescence girls surveyed were scared of traversing the narrow by-lanes of the locality, as well as the road to go to school or the local market. In rural areas, one in four adolescent girls felt unsafe when using open spaces, agriculture field for open defecation. Nearly three in five girls reported feeling unsafe in situations where the public place was overcrowded. The study found that 40% of the adolescent girls believed that the reaction of the local police station while lodging a complaint could range from either blaming the complaint or showing acute reluctance in recording the complaints.
Moreover, adolescent girls felt scared in overcrowded buses, trains, metros, local trains etc as they feared inappropriate touching and groping. 58% of the adolescence boys and 52% of the parents of the interviewed girls shared that it was not safe for girls living in their neighborhood to take a public transport in the evening. Over one in every four adolescent girls perceived the threat of being physically assaulted, including getting raped, while venturing into public spaces, while one in three expected to be inappropriately touched or even stalked.
According to the adolescent girls, their support systems outside their homes were also not substantive. Mothers of the adolescent girls shared that they do not expect bystanders to get involved in offering assistance if something were to happen to them on the roads.
Nearly half of the boys interviewed were of the opinion that men must have the final words in all the discussions. One in three boys held an opinion that slapping a woman to reprimand her should not be interpreted as violence. One in three adolescent boys felt that girls should avoid wearing certain types of clothes while going out in public spaces. The study found that a majority of the girls were not aware of government statutory bodies like child welfare committees that can be approached for a referral to appropriate authorities for redressal against harassment. Even awareness among the parents was very low. Only 11% of parents were aware of such information. Besides that awareness of 1098 child helpline was also very low. Around 90% of the adolescent girls who were exposed to stories about sexual assault on girls and women in media have started become more careful about where they go in public places.
The present study was conducted in six states of India – Assam, Delhi-NCR, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and West Bengal. However, the factsheet has been derived from the sample that was covered in the state of Assam, where 516 adolescence girls, 186 adolescence boys, 142 parents and 44 young women who married before attaining legal age. The urban part of the sample was spread across the cities of Guwahati MC, Silchar MB, Jorhat MB, and the smaller towns of Bongaigaon MB and Mangoldai municipalities. The rural part of the sample was drawn from villages of Hailakandi and Darrang district.