INDIA

Indian women fight for right to walk alone at night without fear

These photos were taken in, from left to right, Bangalore; Jaipur (by our Observer Aditi Ameria); and Bombay. They were all shared on the “Blank Noise” Twitter account (@Blanknoise).
These photos were taken in, from left to right, Bangalore; Jaipur (by our Observer Aditi Ameria); and Bombay. They were all shared on the “Blank Noise” Twitter account (@Blanknoise).

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In India, very few women walk the streets alone at night because they are afraid of being attacked or harassed — a situation that the members of the “Blank Noise” collective find unacceptable. On December 2, they organised a national protest calling on women to take to the streets between 9pm and midnight as a way to reclaim their right to the public space.

The “Blank Noise” collective was founded in 2003 in Bangalore, the capital of the southern state of Karnataka state. The group aims to combat the pervasive sexual harassment that many Indian women face in the street.

According to a study carried out by the British NGO ActionAid, 79 percent of Indian women have already experienced violence or sexual harassment while out and about in the streets. The members of “Blank Noise” have organised several events, including the “I never ask for it” campaign, to fight this terrible trend and to raise awareness about it.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Indian women share photos of clothes worn when sexually assaulted

The high rate of sexual harassment is one of the main reasons that many women avoid going out at night, especially when they are alone. In order to encourage them to overcome their fears, the Blank Noise collective organised an event called “Walk Alone”, from June 12-19, again on September 25, and then a third walk on December 2.

On that day, in many different cities across the country, women walked the streets alone between 9pm and midnight. Some ventured into places where they had never before gone. The collective allowed women to be accompanied if they had safety concerns.

Nomita Khatri filmed these two videos in Goa state on the western coast of India on December 2.

“It’s not normal that women are afraid to walk alone at night in 2016”

Aditi Ameria, 24, just finished law school. On December 2, she took part in the walk in Jaipur, the capital in the northern state of Rajasthan.

Around 9:30pm, I went out to walk around my neighbourhood. I live in a residential area located on the edge of Jaipur. It’s considered “safe” in the sense that you never hear about atrocious crimes or kidnappings happening here. That said, the streets were deserted, which made it scary. A friend of mine also participated in the Jaipur event with her mom.

Our Observer Aditi Ameria took these photos in the streets of Jaipur during her night-time walk.

It’s true that this little walk isn’t a huge feat in itself, but it does highlight how absurd it is that women can’t walk alone at night because they are afraid of being attacked. It’s ridiculous! It’s 2016, for goodness sake.

“At night, we often hear men making crude comments, which can be really scary”

Unfortunately, these fears are legitimate. At night, men often whistle at us. We also often hear men making crude comments, which can be really scary. Sometimes they say things like, “Where are you going? Come with us!”

During the day, you can just avert your eyes or look at the ground but at night, it is quite different because the streets are often deserted. The people who are out might have been drinking or taking drugs and might be dangerous. Even when you drive, you aren’t off the hook. Most women I know who drive alone have been followed at some point in time by men in cars or on scooters.

“In Rajasthan, women never walk alone at night, unless they really don't have a choice”

 

Moreover, the cultural norms that dictate our society don’t encourage women to go out alone, especially at night. In Rajasthan, which is a very traditional state, women never walk alone at night, except if they really have no other choice.

For example, if there is still shopping to get at night, my brother usually does it. Sometimes I go with him, but I would never go alone. I really appreciated the “Walk Alone” event because it sparked conversations amongst my friends. We talked about this issue and questioned our societal norms.

However, I would say that the situation is probably different in bigger cities like Bombay or Bangalore, where it is busy 24/7, unlike in Jaipur where there aren’t many cars or pedestrians out after night falls.

Bandra is a city in western Bombay in Maharashtra state, which is located on the western coast of the country.

A woman who was walking the streets of Bombay on December 2 in protest noticed that there were only men out in this area at night.

In December 2012, there was an unprecedented wave of protests after a female student was gang raped in a bus in New Delhi. After the incident, a wave of unprecedented protests swept the country. As a result, Indian authorities toughened laws on rape and sexual assaults, even allowing the death penalty for the most severe cases.

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