A friend of mine recently sent me an article from the Washington Post addressing the call for female only trains, busses, cabs, and even city parks in parts of India. It seems that it's not only the Indian newspapers that are full of stories of rape and violence against women. India's seeming surge of violent attacks is making news globally.
In sending me the article, my friend was asking for my take on the safety of living in India as a woman. Keep in mind, I am married to an Indian with my in-laws ever present so my experience I feel is more sheltered then that of someone staying here, who doesn't have family to fall back on and has to take care of everything on their own.
Let me start out by saying, I feel blessed to have landed in Hyderabad. No matter where else in India I've visited, I've always felt like I was coming home upon my return to the city. I find the people here to be very welcoming and genuinely caring and helpful. When I first came here, I attributed this to my white skin. Everyone was curious about me and eager to help, but after living in the same place for over two years, that sentiment hasn't changed much. When I'm out in my own neighbourhood, I feel comfortable. Local merchants that know me (and that's just about all of them), go out of their way to come and say hi when they see me out, and I feel as though I have people I can count on when I need anything.
Apart from taking care of daily business in my own neighbourhood, I don't go out alone. I'm always accompanied by my husband or my brother in law and don't find myself in situations where I have to navigate something without the company of a guardian that speaks the local language. It sounds old fashion, but it's how things are done and it certainly lends itself to safer circumstances.
The article in the WP discussed the demand for women only transportation options and locals providing women a place they could relax and enjoy the company of their friends without having to deflect lewd comments or looks from men. They are supposed to provide safer options for the female population. Now, we all know that the real problem is with the men and that the attention should be on raising our boys to learn to respect women, but that's going to take an immense educational effort and generations before such sentiment is at the heart of the population.
If there are immediate options available to women that allow them the independence to go out alone because they don't have to fear for their safety from men on a local bus, or some creep at a local park then I think that's a good thing. I don't believe that some level of segregation, in the name of safety, will discount the educational gains or career options for women, as stated in the article. I think it would do the opposite. I think it would provide women with opportunities to bolster their confidence and independence because they wouldn't have to expend energy worrying about every other passenger on the bus and what their intensions might be.
There's no where I want to go that I don't have someone that is willing to take me, and while I appreciate their company, the option to take a ladies only bus would certainly provide additional options for me and I think that's a good thing!
What are your thoughts?