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Is Delhi Safe For Women? My Take.

Delhi safety, New delhi safe for women, India safe for women, India safe to travel

The events of the last few weeks in Delhi have left us feeling angry, disappointed and helpless. We have raised questions in our heads, on Twitter and Facebook, and on the streets, about safety in Delhi and on a larger level, asked if India is safe (anymore) for women. We have spoken the unspeakable truth about rape in India, we have tried long and hard to look at our values as a society, we have spoken up about the dark, silent nights of India, we have confessed that the safety protests in Delhi might not have gone right, and we continue to hope against hope that strict measures will be taken to punish the guilty and prevent such brutality in the future.

There is enough and more pessimism and anger out there (and within me, like within all of us), and as someone who continues to use New Delhi as a base and continues to be a proponent of solo travel in India, I believe we need to channel our aggression in the right direction. We need to take our safety in our own hands, because even if we assume that after all these years, laws will be created and executed to ensure greater safety for women in India, it could be years before we start to see any real change or feel any safer walking on the streets. And we have to start looking at our own homes, because what we are fighting is a very fundamental flaw in our society.

Is delhi safe, Is India safe for women

Photo by Anurag Agnihotri.

While we continue to demand change, Delhi will only be as safe for us (women and men) as the effort we put into staying safe and fighting the fear. And here’s how I think we can do it:

1. Enroll in a self defense class.

Every Sunday in the month of January, Krav Maga India is offering free training sessions for women in Delhi. This is an Israeli art of self defense and I went for the session last Sunday; I’ve tried Karate and Muay Thai before (just tried!), but I realized that the techniques you learn in Krav Maga are much more practical for everyday life. It helps sharpen your instincts and make you more aware of your surroundings, as well as teaches you how to protect yourself in adverse situations, even from a bigger or stronger man. Krav Maga India also offers paid sessions for women and men throughout the year.

Venue: M-6, Basement ,Saket.- New Delhi
Time: 11-12 noon
Contact: +91.11.41764207

Delhi safety, Is India safe, women safe delhi

Let’s not underestimate our own strength, if used the right way. Photo by Kevin Dooley.

2. Equip yourself with a defense weapon.

As per this story on what spurs potential attackers, carrying a pepper spray is a big deterrent, because you signify trouble. I’ve owned one since I moved to Delhi and it’s something I’ve been advocating as part of my survival tips for women moving to Delhi. You can buy a bottle at any chemist store. I’ve recently found out that Stun Guns, which are essentially contact shockers, are also legal in India, though I’m yet to find a store that sells them (does anyone know of such a store?). A swiss knife or something sharp can be equally handy in distress. The important thing is to keep such a weapon accessible when you’re about to step out after dark, or walk along an isolated stretch. If you encounter trouble or your gut suggests that someone standing near you might be dangerous, quietly grab your weapon and stay prepared.

india solo travel, solo female travellers india

It’s a long road we’ll be walking on… Photo by Anurag Agnihotri.

3. Don’t turn a blind eye on others in trouble.

I know that the state of the law and policing in India doesn’t exactly advocate helping one’s neighbor, but this interview might make you rethink all of that. Or this fictional story about a man who looked the other way. I often wonder what I’d do if I was passing or driving by someone who looked like she was in trouble with a group of men, or in need of help on a dark road. We’ve been so conditioned to not meddle in the matters of those who don’t affect us, that we’ve forgotten the value of a helping hand. The next time we spot someone in trouble, let’s do unto them what we’d have them do unto us; call the police, yell for help, put the pepper spray to use.

India solo female travel, India women safety

We’ve got to look out for each other. Photo by Vinoth Chandar.

4. Stand up for what’s right, at home.

Unfortunately for us in India, misogyny begins at home, in our own educated urban homes and families. I’ve personally seen so many mothers who blindly dote on their sons, so blindly that nothing the son does can be wrong, so blindly that she warrants that other people treat her son like a king. Whether you’re the son or the daughter, it’s time to stand up and raise your voice for what’s right. The next time someone tries to put you down as the ‘inferior’ sex, speak out, lecture, revolt, do whatever it takes to make yourself heard. That’s the only way we can start changing the fundamentally flawed attitude of our patriarchal society.

family picture ideas, family pictures

Photo by Zitona.

5. Trust your gut.

It’s impossible to emphasize this enough. We all read and share golden rules like don’t walk alone on a dark street, or don’t accept an invitation to ride with someone you barely know, or don’t get lost texting while in an isolated space, or fork out a few extra bucks to take a cab late in the night, but how many of us really follow it? If travelling in India by myself has taught me something, it is that when your gut suggests that someone might mean trouble, they most certainly will. It’s better to be safe than sorry, always.

women solo travel, Is India safe to travel, travel alone India

Live in fear, or claim our right to see the world? Photo by Jennifer.

I’ve shared some of these thoughts on Twitter, and one person tweeted back saying that there’s something very wrong with a society where women need to learn self defense, and no one can deny that that’s true. And of course, the misogyny is not limited to India either. We have taken the first step by admitting that our society (among other things) needs to change. While this change takes its course, we have two options – we can live in fear, because forget a dark street at night, we are not even safe in our own homes; as per the National Crime Records Bureau, 94.2% of rapes in India were inflicted by family / friends / neighbors or someone the woman knew. Or we can take charge of our own safety, and instead of asking whether it’s safe to travel in India and if New Delhi is safe for women, let’s ask if we have done everything we can to stay safe.

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Featured image by Cia de foto.

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24 Comments Post a comment
  1. “Don’t turn a blind eye on others in trouble.” has to be the most important and first thing we need to do!

    January 9, 2013
    • For me, it would be after learning self defense or being well-equipped, because how much can you really help when you yourself are vulnerable?

      January 9, 2013
  2. A very good article indeed and a very good clarification.
    Such awareness needs to be raised among all families specially in India. Just changing laws doesn’t help, changing the mindsets of people and the upcoming generation will definitely help though gradually.

    January 9, 2013
    • Thanks Priyanka. I agree with you, the current generation of women and men may be too far gone, but it is the impressionable younger ones we need to start focussing on.

      January 9, 2013
  3. Jas #

    For me too the most important one is “Not turn the blind eye on others in trouble”. If we really start doing that, we will start seeing a change.

    January 9, 2013
    • Very true, Jas. Each of us needs to start acting on it rather than merely preaching it and sharing it on Facebook.

      January 9, 2013
  4. I think point 4 is very important. That is where you can actually stop the creation of a potential rapist.

    January 9, 2013
    • I agree Amit, but it’s also a long term process. And we still need to find a way to live in India until then.

      January 9, 2013
  5. I would hate to get scared and sit at home. I would rather be prepared, a little more prudent and equipped with things like pepper sprays but I would still like to travel about !

    January 9, 2013
    • Absolutely agree with you, Ruchira. It’s what Indian parents need to start telling their daughters instead of trying to curb their freedom.

      January 9, 2013
  6. Rohan #

    Excellent post, Shivya. One thing that I think all women in India should be doing is share their own experiences that they’ve encountered while traveling in buses, trains, the by-lanes or while waiting anywhere in public- share them with their brothers/cousins/guy friends/other male members of the family. It seems that all of them have had some story to share, and once guys hear these incidents happening to the ladies in their own family, it creates a BIG difference. They need to know that such instances are not just happening to some random girl in the newspaper or blog or TV news, but to anyone and everyone, including their own sisters, friends and girlfriends.
    Moreover, the mindset of this subject being a taboo has to change, such experiences need to be shared, and very openly and comfortably. Many girls feel ashamed to share these instances, mostly disgusted themselves, but they don’t realize they are helping everyone else if they share.

    January 9, 2013
    • You’re right, Rohan. We often dismiss this as “things that happen to other people”. I for one am going to start encouraging women I know to start speaking out about it. I think platforms like The Alternative and Women’s Web are doing a great job in getting women to speak up. It all starts with that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      January 10, 2013
  7. dnambiar11 #

    You’ve said it all, Shivya.
    Happy New Year to you. Stay safe. :)

    January 10, 2013
  8. I really go with you for enrolling oneself for self-defense classes, & yes, when people stand for what’s right at home only then changes could come. Often, we want to be very nice people & don’t want to raise our voice which in after-consequences gives weapons to these perpetrators because no one restrains them.

    January 10, 2013
    • Agreed Gayatri, we need to get our voices heard.

      January 11, 2013
  9. I’m not Indian, and I’m not sure if my thoughts have a place here. But – you can only delete me, and that is fine if my words are out of place.

    But I do want to say that the women of the world are behind you. If you need us to stand with you, then we will – we must, for what is happening to you is the worst that could happen to any sister.

    And (here I might be out of line) I hope there is a way to educate the children – to respect men and women alike, to value to humanity of us all as equals.

    (I travelled for three months in India, on my own – but I’m, in Indian terms, old – I was in my late 50s – and white-skinned, and I made sure to dress modestly all the time. I had stares and questions, but nothing too unpleasant. But I think I was protected by my age?)

    January 12, 2013
  10. Well said, Shivya, I like the martial arts part and also the pepper spray, very much needed not only in India!

    January 12, 2013
  11. To be honest Delhi is not safe at all, in fact it never had been safe for women. Its a rough city with too many vultures waiting round the corner. Sorry if I feel that way. Thanks for the tips.

    January 13, 2013
    • My point is that every city has its unsafe places and vultures. We need to start equipping ourselves to stay safe rather than playing victim, pointing blame, and preaching.

      January 13, 2013
  12. dina #

    I’m not from Delhi, but I love Delhi for its history and shopping, I have found the saying “Delhi Ka Thug” to be most apt for this city. I have been cheated by taxi guys / hotel managers to arrogant shopkeepers. One has to just be prepared to fight for the right and enjoy the better of this city.

    January 25, 2013
  13. Last few months has seen a very sad part of our country and has affected tourism in India. This is a very serious issue that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. I consider educating the society is the most important part than fighting with government who does nothing than loud speeches….
    Thanks shivya for the post……very well written

    July 3, 2013
  14. Priya #

    Very nicely written, i must say.

    February 7, 2014

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