The gang rape of a journalist in Mumbai has left a lot of women in India worried about their safety – and rightly so. After a student was gang raped and died in Delhi last December, I was frequently asked by journalists if Delhi was the “most dangerous” place for women to live. Now, I expect they’ll ask the same question of Mumbai.
I’m going to answer that there are many men who make living and working environments dangerous for women across the world, including in India. As a woman living in Mumbai, I ride in taxis and rickshaws at night, and love how safe I feel doing so. But I’m going to stress that we need to focus on how we keep women safe, not just highlight the risks.
We need to work overtime to find ways to prevent violence, and learn from good practices like the Safe Cities Global Initiative. Simple but effective measures like installing functioning street lights can make public spaces more secure.
We also need to constantly watch India’s justice system, so that sexual assault can be properly investigated and prosecuted. And when police officers are responsible, as they all too often are, they need to be held accountable.
This is a key challenge not just for India, but for many countries.
In the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape, many described Delhi as the “rape capital” of India and India as the “rape capital” of the world. But these hastily drawn conclusions and catchy phrases are ultimately counterproductive. They undermine the efforts of those who work overtime to change systems and support survivors, and the many men who come out and condemn violence against women. Instead, we should address the underlying issues to the problem, and truly focus on how to keep women safe.