December 29, 2011


Hindustan Times

Western region least safe for women

The city’s western region is dotted with swanky and upscale areas such as Bandra, Khar, Santacruz and Oshiwara. So it comes as a shock that it is also the most unsafe region for women in the city, according to an analysis of figures released by the Mumbai police. On December 18,published a news report highlighting that crimes against women in the city had risen substantially in 2011, as compared to last year.

The report, based on statistics from the police, raised a question mark on Mumbai’s ‘safe city’ tag — a myth that was also busted by findings of the HT-Akshara survey, for which 4,225 women across the city were interviewed. The survey, conducted in November, revealed that 95 % women interviewed had been sexually harassed or assaulted. 99% considered sexual harassment to be the foremost personal safety risk in public spaces.

Going a step further, we analysed statistics provided by the police, to see which regions were the least safe for women. According to the results, till November 30, police had registered 47 cases of rape (under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code), 145 cases of molestation (Section 354) and 66 cases of eve teasing or street sexual violence (Section 509) in the western region – which tops the list.

The city is divided into five regions — north, south, east, west and central – by the police. These five regions are further divided into 13 police zones.
The western region comprises 21 police stations, including Amboli, where two youngsters — Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes — were murdered when they objected to some men harassing their women friends.

The northern region, which includes Goregaon, Malad Kandivli, Borivli, Dahisar and the other areas, had the second highest number of cases regarding crime against women. The 15 police stations in the region recorded 43 cases of rape, 114 of molestation and 33 of street sexual violence, till November 30.

In the same time period, the eastern region recorded a total 175 cases of crime against women while the figure in the central region stood at 149.

The south region, which includes Colaba, Cuffe Parade and Malabar Hill, emerged as the least unsafe, with 30 cases of rape, 45 cases of molestation, and 17 relating to street sexual violence being registered.

Since 2010, there has been a 17.54% rise in the number of rape cases, 10% rise in molestation cases and 12% rise in eve teasing cases registered across the city.
Compared to 2010,the sharpest rise in rape cases, was recorded in the eastern region (37.83%). The northern region recorded the highest rise (83%) in the number of molestation cases along with a maximum rise (60%) in eve teasing cases.


Hindustan Times

Molestation, harassment going North

September 19 is etched in Kirti Sharma’s (name changed) memory. The 23-year-old management graduate was trying to find an autorickshaw near her house in Bangur Nagar, to go to Malad railway station, when an unidentified man on a motorcycle attacked her. “I was walking towards the Link Road when suddenly, I felt a pat on my back. I turned around thinking it was a friend, but a biker went past me. Then, I felt a stinging sensation on my back. When I touched my back, I realised I was bleeding, he had slashed my back with a knife,” said Sharma.

Sharma had to get 17 stitches on her back. She went to the Bangur Nagar police station where police recorded her statement, but she hasn’t heard from them since then.

Bangur Nagar, a predominantly residential area, is a part of the city’s north region, which stretches from Goregaon to Dahisar. Bangur Nagar, with 10 cases of molestation of women registered this year, reflects the same trend that much of the north zone has seen – an exponential rise in crimes against women.

This year, the north region recorded the second highest number of crime against women (till December 25) in the city, with a total of 203 (including rape, eve teasing and molestation. The highest was the western region, with 258. The 15 police stations in the north zone registered 44 rape cases, 125 molestation cases, and 34 cases of eve teasing.

What sets this region apart, however, is that it also recorded the highest rise in the number of eve teasing cases (88%) in the city’s five regions as well as in the number of molestation cases, which have increased by 76% .

Local police attribute this to presence of a large number of slum areas in the region, which have recorded the highest number of crime cases. Areas such as Borivli, Kandivli, Samata Nagar, Dahisar, among other residential areas are considered safe. Slum-dominated parts such as Malwani, Charkop, Goregaon (West) and Dindoshi are deemed unsafe.

“In Malwani, which is populated with commercial sex workers and former bar dancers, women are vulnerable. Every month, we hear of cases of kidnapping and sexual violence against women. Daughters of sex workers and former bar dancers are also easy prey for men in this area,” said Prabha Desai, chairperson and director of Sanmitra Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works with former bargirls and sex workers.

However, residential areas such as Bangur Nagar and to a smaller extent, IC Colony, Borivli, have also recorded incidents of eve teasing and molestation. “Bangur Nagar has a very old layout with several lanes and by-lanes which are deserted. Many such lanes are unmonitored,” said Sameer Desai, a local corporator.

Similarly, IC Colony remains largely deserted in the afternoon, attracting anti-social elements. “We have heard of eve teasing incidents near a café in the area. I have also received complaints of girls being harassed near bus stops. These incidents usually happen in the afternoon, when there are not many people around,” said Yvonne D Souza, president, IC Women’s Welfare Association.

Police also said that the north region is densely populated, with a diverse population, making int difficult to maintain law and order. “This region is one of the fastest developing one in the city. There are construction sites, schools, colleges, malls, residential complexes, corporate offices, and slums,” said, Ramrao Pawar, additional commissioner of police, north region.

However, fast-paced development in recent times has increased the activity in the area, making it safer, say some residents. “When I shifted here seven years ago, it was a very quiet area with trees and with not too many people. Now the area has become a real estate hub. I feel its safer with shops and the crowd, even in the night,” said Manali Lele, resident of Borivli, who works as an assistant director in a televison production house.

For instance, Malad’s Mindspace Business Park, which is a hub for call centres, has transformed the area. “When I opened my hotel 1999 near Mindspace there was only a dumping ground. I feel that after Mindspace came up, the area around it has become very safe. Women who work there walk to my restaurant at 11 pm from Mindspace. I also see women standing outside the business park drinking chai from the small vendors or taking a smoke break in the wee hours of the morning,” said Neeraj Jain, a hotelier.

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