Mikaela Viqueira |
New Delhi (EFE).- At nightfall, some thirty women meet in a New Delhi neighborhood to do something they would not dare alone: walk. They want to get rid of the fear of walking after sunset in the most dangerous city in India.
With warm clothes, sports shoes and carrying water, food and some books in their backpacks, this group goes into the different neighborhoods of the Indian capital once a month to claim that the night also belongs to them.
Under the project “Women Walk at Midnight” (Women walk at midnight) hides the activist Mallika Taneja, who started this movement when a few years ago she wanted to go out for a night walk and realized that she could never do it alone.
“I just wanted company to walk with, so we did some walks that included men as well,” until “I felt it was the logical thing to turn this into a women’s walk, because that’s really what we needed: we needed a women’s space. to occupy the street,” Taneja explained to EFE.
New Delhi, capital of crime
Despite the improvement in security in residential neighborhoods in recent years, especially in those located in the more affluent south of the capital, New Delhi continues to be the most insecure Indian city for women, according to data from the National Registry Office. Indian Crime Bureau (NCRB).
In 2021, the latest available data, 428,278 crimes against women were recorded in India, an increase of 15.3% over the previous year. In most cases, the violence came from the husband or other relatives (31.8%), followed by assaults on women “with the intention of outraging their modesty” (20.8%), kidnapping (17.6%) and rape (7.4%).
According to the NCRB, New Delhi is the Indian city with the highest record of crimes against women, 13,982 in 2021, a number much higher than the second metropolis on the list, Mumbai, with 5,543. Specifically, 2,060 attacks were registered in the capital “with the intention of outraging modesty”, compared to 1,627 in the coastal Bombay.
The data contrasts, however, with the increase in recent years in measures to improve women’s safety in New Delhi, after a gang rape and torture of a young student in the capital in December 2012 sparked a wave of protests without precedents against sexist violence.
Some measures that have been shown to be insufficient for women, who continue to avoid going out alone at night: no one is safe.
Several women gather in a New Delhi park at dusk. EFE/ Mikaela Viqueira
Last January, even the activist and director of the New Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Swati Maliwal, reported that she was sexually harassed by a drunk while inspecting security levels on the streets at night.
“Women should be able to go out more without worrying if it’s day or night. And to do that, we need them to feel safe, our society and the government need to make a decision” and put it into practice, Nisha Rautela, coordinator of the Indian NGO Waves Women Empowerment Trust, remarked to EFE.
Beyond the responsibility of the authorities, Taneja pointed to a much bigger problem: education. “When I walk down the street and people think that my body is public property, that it can be looked at or touched in any way as if they feel entitled to it, what does that say about society? That’s really what has to change,” she maintained.
Insecure alone, empowered in a group
Creating women-only spaces has become a necessity for those who accompany Taneja on her walks, who feel safer in a female group and without the need to depend on a man to protect them.
For Mehneer, the night walk was very special because she was finally able to see what the streets of the southern neighborhood of Alaknanda are like at night, where she has lived since she was a child.
“It was absolutely incredible,” she told EFE, amazed that there is so much life around midnight.
But “I wouldn’t have the courage to do it alone, not at all. After 10 p.m. she would no longer be safe »and she would go from enjoying the experience to fearing for my life, she acknowledged.
Aishwarya lived in Bombay and exposes the differences between the nightlife of the economic capital of the country, more progressive; and the administrative, more conservative and patriarchal, partly due to the rural exodus, where education is not so widespread.
“Women work, travel and move more freely in Mumbai than in Delhi” and therefore “when you don’t have other women around you doing normal things like taking trains and buses or walking, you feel more insecure” the young woman told EFE.
For this reason, he adds, here in New Delhi “this is the safest way to walk at night”: in the company of women.