How safe do women feel working at night?
In a gruesome reminder of the Delhi rape case, a young woman was gang raped, this time in Mumbai.
Last year, Rediff.com spoke with five women who worked the night shifts to get their reaction to the Bombay High Court's verdict against the two men who raped and killed a Pune call centre girl in November 2007.
We republish their reactions below:
On Thursday August 22, a young photojournalist, while on assignment, was gang raped in central Mumbai's busy Mahalaxmi area.
The 23-year-old woman who works with an English magazine, was accompanied by her colleague and the two walked into the deserted Shakti Mills compound to take photographs when local hooligans ganged up against the two.
In a chilling reminder of the Delhi rape case, they beat up her male colleague and tied him up as they raped the young girl.
Last year, after the Bombay High Court upheld the death rap for the men who raped and killed a Pune call centre girl in 2007, we had asked five young women professionals how they keep themselves safe.
Today, we republish their first-persona accounts, in the light of this gruesome crime:
Note: All names changed on request
Jayathi M worked night shifts in a Pune call centre two years ago and has followed Jyotikumari's case closely. Jayathi is currently working with an MNC in Bangalore
I felt very safe and secure while travelling at night when I worked for this Pune company. The main reason was the company followed a policy that woman members would always be accompanied by a male members from their teams and they should not be the last drop or the first pick up.
At that point in time (after the Pune rape incident) it was a bit scary but we also had a security guard appointed by the company who would travel with us.
There was this one incident when there were riots in Pune and rioters threw burning tyres on the road. Though we took a different route to avoid the troubled spots it was very scary because nobody knew what could have happened.
Also, my company took great care of its women employees by providing them with guesthouse facilities or stay within the campus whenever there were rumours of impending trouble in the city.
Nobody has a vision as to what is likely to happen the next minute but it is important that women learn self-defence techniques so that they don't have to depend on others for their own well-being and security. Also, what many call centres where shifts end at 4 in the morning could do is ask their women employees to stay back till daybreak and then provide them with drop facilities.
Personally, I am not in favour of capital punishment but then such criminals should be given the harshest punishment possible so that it acts as a deterrent. Life imprisonment could prove to be such a deterrent.
Also, laws should be made stricter so that any such incident results in fair convictions and there should be working help lines for women in distress.
Rujuta Paralkar, make-up artist and freelancer in Mumbai often works late in the night and travels alone in her own car feels that women should learn to take care of their own defence
As a make-up artist I know I have to work at odd hours. Frankly speaking, I am mentally prepared for it. I have my own car so personally I do not feel unsafe travelling alone at night. I am sure women who have to depend on local transport or pick ups and drops must be having a feeling of insecurity while travelling at night. All the women who work odd hours should learn basic self-defence techniques to look after their well being.
When I travel all by myself I make sure that I lock all my car doors from inside but mostly I travel with somebody in my team.
I think that women working in call centres should travel in groups and with security provided by their company. Let us hope that the exemplary punishment meted out to the two Pune rapists make lives of women safer in this country.
Crystal Cordozo who works as an account executive in an advertising agency in Mumbai thinks women who are scared should either keep a penknife or pepper spray handy
I feel very safe when I travel at night. Thankfully, I have not yet encountered any untoward incident. Being part of an industry that works late nights I have to travel at 3 and 4 in the morning. I travel by road as well as trains and luckily has yet to encounter any problems at night.
Let me share a scary instance with you: Once I was going home at night and it was raining and there weren't many people around on the road. I walked quite some distance when a cabbie came to me and asked if I was looking for transport. Though he was a total stranger and it was an eerie night I went along. I wasn't scared much but was prepared to fight back had the cab driver acted funny.
I don't keep things like a penknife or a pepper spray with me. I just trust God and people around for my safety. According to me women who travel at night should carry pepper sprays or penknives with them, note down the numbers of taxis or autos they hire and text it to somebody who they know, just in case.
However, I don't think it is a practical way to handle such situations if you travel often at night.
Ramola Raghavan works in a call centre and regularly takes a pick up and drop facility
My company offers escorts to women employees who travel at night. They also make sure that you are not the first one to be picked up from home or the last one to be dropped at home in the night. I feel that apart from what companies do for women working in call centres or night shifts employees should also be responsible for their own safety. Offering pick up and drop and providing security guards is the most that any company could do for its women employees. But people who work should also desist from travelling with their friends late at nights.
The other thing that women should do while being picked up or dropped while at work is to remain alert of what's happening around them, look for suspicious people or signs that warn of trouble. The company can take steps and measures for your safety but following them properly is your responsibility.
I believe that the Bombay High Court's verdict announcing death rap for the two rapists could definitely act as a deterrent to people who have such malicious motives. People who exploit women should be given a death sentence.
The Bombay HC judgement could act as a big help in stopping such atrocities against women.
On a personal note, I always make sure I am not the last one to get out of the cab or the first one to be picked up.
Radha Kamath works night shifts at a call centre in Mumbai. She carries a pepper spray with her and hopes that she would be able to use it if anybody misbehaved with her
Travelling at night is not a problem in a city like Mumbai where you have a busy nightlife. Also, when you travel at night from or to your office it is always in a secured environment. There is always some escort or a security guard appointed by call centres to look after their women employees.
I remember two instances when I was picked up first from my home at night. I was really, really scared. Because though the security guard belonged to the company I didn't know much about him. The neighbourhood that I live in is usually very silent even at daytime. At nights it is dark and desolate. Thankfully, there was no bad incident during those two times.
I did not give a formal request to my company that such a thing should not happen again because my process changed and never after that did I had to face a similar situation.
Personally, I carry a pepper spray with me in my purse and I hope that I would have the courage to use it if the situation so demands. I expect that I can use it. I hope that I can use it because I have never faced such a situation.
I welcome the capital punishment upheld by the Bombay High Court. I am saying so not because I am a girl but as a human being it pains to hear about young lives destroyed by such monsters.
Image: A protester holds a placard during a rally demanding the state government to ensure the safety of women in the capital city, outside the residence of Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dixit in New Delhi December 19, 2012.
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters