Pioneering Ways To Induce Women’s Safety Into Planning
The recent Thomas Reuters poll designated India at the bottom of its rankings and established the fact that India as a nation needs a thoughtful introspection concerning the way the Indian women continue to be harassed, abused and discriminated against; both publicly and domestically.
The poll results could well turn out to be a wake-up call for the incumbent regime towards accepting faults and finding ways to establish new and innovative paradigms for gender-sensitive public domains. However, the government, stung by the results, has buried its head in the sand. Not only has it dismissed the results, the government has also decried the legitimacy of the poll by terming it as merely ‘perceptions of a few that are based on inherently subjective opinions’.
A city can be rendered as a safe city when all its inhabitants live in relative peace. Inadequacies have been found in the planning and policy-making in the case of New Delhi. The Master Plan of Delhi is a government-based, primary means of information pertaining to urban planning and governance of the city. It has been reviewed and criticized many a time by urban planners because it does not consider any compiled data of places having a large influx of women, neither does it make any recommendations sensitive to urban planning, land-use, and infrastructure with the aim of making spaces gender-sensitive and inclusive.
The lapse is not only in the Master Plan of Delhi, but the overall view of gender security is over-sighted in the Indian public policy. The existing approach to tackling crimes against women is very legislature-centric, dealing with the after-effects of the incidents of crime against women. Whereas, it should rather be more preventive in nature. Prevention of gender-based crimes involves participation all the sections of the community, and it is not all about good administration and more policing. It has been well-researched in many cases around the world, that the cost of investing more in bringing a sense of inclusiveness in the society is always less than the cost of increased policing and persecution.
The planners and policymakers should audit different areas of New Delhi to find out the root causes that instigate crimes against women on different levels of household, street, and an overall level of society. It should be well assumed that women and other gender-groups, as unique user-groups that perceive the spaces uniquely due to their biological differences, social constructs, and experiences in the society.
Pioneering ways to induce women’s safety into planning
Women-safety measures can be induced in the planning of spaces, giving rise to more gender sensitive spaces. For achieving this first, places having a large influx of women should be identified for planning purposes. Additional efforts in policy-making and planning are required in those places to ensure an easy functioning of the places with women as core stakeholders. Factors that impact women's safety may be categorized as:
Street and road infrastructure
Clear signage, with appropriate height and visibility, are required at the street levels, so that women get to easily know where they are, on alien routes.
Proper street infrastructure should be provided on all streets and roads. Pedestrian walkways should be effectively maintained by the concerned authorities so that no activities of encroachment and other happenings of anti-social activities, such as drug abuse and/or liquor consumption take place on the pedestrian walkways. Innovative measures should be deciphered to provide shelters to homeless persons so that they don’t end up occupying the walkways to reside on. They should be treated as a separate user group and appropriate arrangements should be made for their habitation.
Streets should encompass functional lighting in the evenings. Streets should be properly cleaned at regular intervals. The present-day situation of the streets and roads of Delhi distressing, with all the waste dumped on them, making it a challenging task to walk. Litters, debris, and other trash lay unattended on the roads, causing an unpleasant experience to commute. Women tend to avoid these routes as they are uncared for, and often reckon that nobody would be there to help them in times of Distress.
Gender-equitable toilets for women and other gender groups should be built in the public spaces, roads, and streets. The toilets should be made in such a way that their entry and exit remain segregated from the walkways. Design of men toilets should also be improved in such a way no activity of urinating in open takes place on the streets and walkways. CCTV surveillance should be incorporated on every street and road. The very presence of surveillance would make women more comfortable while commuting.
Women are often physically harassed and eve-teased in public transport facilities. Overcrowding results in a packed transit vehicle and women often emerge as a soft target in these vehicles. Woman-only buses should be made to run on all roads so that they feel more secure and connected while commuting in a public transit facility. Additionally, security officers should be deployed to public transport to ensure woman-safety.
Separate parking spaces should be designated at places having a large influx of women. Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini Nagar market are the prime examples of these places. Women come to meet their day-to-day requirements in huge numbers to these markets. They are often accompanied by their toddlers. In this scenario, it becomes difficult for women to park their vehicles. Moreover, with a limited number of parking spots, women are more likely to be harassed, if they park their vehicles to places that are distant to the markets.
More policing is necessary at both the street and household level, but more policing should not mean increment of the police force in any area. Specific designations should be made to carry out specific tasks to make spaces more accessible and secure for women. Park attendants, female bus conductors, female toilet attendants should be designated at public spaces and transport facilities.
Clearly, with the current order of gender inclusion in public realms, there is more to expect from the governments. And the people need to have a sense of accountability in themselves too, to realize a society without discrimination and insecurity. We must ensure a social order that accommodates diversity and provides a profound sense of belonging to each of its members, regardless of the distinctions of caste, creed, class, and gender.
Safer habitats for women should not be treated as supplementary parts of planning and rather, should be given a prime importance. In the times to come, safer habitats for women would mean a safe and upright community and level-headed individuals, and cities will reach many steps closer to being equally generous for all the citizenry.
“The glory of justice and the majesty of law are created not just by the Constitution - nor by the courts - nor by the officers of the law - nor by the lawyers - but by the men and women who constitute our society - who are the protectors of the law as they are themselves protected by the law.”