Bangalore, May 7, 2013 DHNS:
Shamini Ramkumar is a changed woman. The engineering student now thinks twice before wearing her favourite jeans or a sleeveless top.
All this because she travels by bus every day and feels that wearing such clothes attracts negative attention.
She is one of the many young women in the City who have made minor, but significant changes to their lifestyle in the wake of increasing reports of rape and sexual assault in the country. “I never gave this a thought before,” Shamini said. “But now, I am very careful. In fact, I avoid going out in the evening without company.”
While most women believe that rape is not the fault of victims, this has not stopped them from changing their routine.
“I am always on the lookout for suspicious characters,” said Anmol Ramadas, a student of business management.
“My parents have become more protective than before and that has affected my lifestyle. I may not change the way I dress, but my view of society and the attitude towards it has changed.”
Many women said that being violated now, often does not just mean being touched inappropriately or forcefully. “I work five days a week and my job requires me to travel well into the night,” explained Ranita Kumar, who is employed at a BPO. “Often I find myself being taunted or stared at, but I am helpless as there are no police or other women around at 3 am. One does not need to be a victim to feel like one.”
While self-defence is readily practised by women in New Delhi, the need for women in Bangalore to do the same has now started growing. “All my friends now carry pepper spray. It has become a necessity,” Anmol said.
Frequent reports of children being raped have also served to instil alarm in working mothers. Several confessed to feeling uneasy whenever they leave their homes in the morning.
Sridevi, who has two daughters, said the rising number of crimes had left her in near constant apprehension about her children’s safety. “I am afraid to leave my children alone at home with maids,” she said. “I am forced to run a background check on everyone my children interact with and feel the constant need to know their whereabouts.”
She added that this increased insecurity has curtailed not only her children’s freedom, but also hers. “My children cannot be carefree and play out on the streets. Neither can I go about my work peacefully,” she explained.
The high-profile crimes against women have also had their effect on men in the City. Although they do not feel victimised, men feel they are now constantly under the radar by women.
Ammar Lokhandwala, a commerce student, told Deccan Herald about an incident when he had attempted to greet a female acquaintance. Instead of receiving a warm welcome, he found himself the recipient of a hostile glare.
“She was very suspicious when I approached her,” he said. “Although she did talk to me later and apologised for her behaviour, I was alarmed at how much recent acts have served to degrade men in the eyes of women.”
Edul Govadia, a student of mass media, said the crimes had created a paranoia among women. “While walking home after sunset, if there are any women ahead of me, they glance back at me constantly, as if they are afraid that I am following them. I just want to tell them ‘I am not going to rape you’,” he said.