There has been a nation wide rage against sexual harassment of women in India after Michaela Cross reported her series of incidents and then the recent gang rape case in Mumbai.
If there is one thing I absolutely hate about my country then it is the way women are treated in India. Sexual harassment is not the only exploitation they have to deal with, it is compounded with physical, emotional, social and every other kind of exploitation.
I thank my stars every day for giving me birth in a family where there is a discrimination between boys and girls but it works in girls' favor. My father gave both me and my sister ample freedom to wear and eat whatever we wished to without imposing any kind of restrictions like 'girls shouldn't wear short skirts and they shouldn't egg meat'. With all these freedoms, he also gave us few lessons that have always been my guiding principles. Some of them are:
- If any man tries to be extra sweet, beware of him.
- Wear what you wish to but keep yourself sober.
- Always maintain distance from men in three professions - drivers & conductors, photographers and cinema hall employees (I follow this even today just that I have added my own sense of discretion here. For ex. photography is now a passion unlike earlier times when it was solely to make money by luring in girls in the shop)
- If you sense anything wrong, just leave that place and come home straight away.
- Never take lift from an unknown person; always prefer public transport.
- Be strong physically; you should be able to run fast if ever needed.
I always found these small but very critical advice(s) the best ever and probably I follow these which is why even after having spent more than 20 yrs in a place like Meerut (the hub of all kinds of crime), I have been safe mostly.
After college I had to leave home and go to Bangalore. I have lived and worked in almost all the metro and cosmo cities and have traveled to lots of places in India and abroad.
There have been articles on the net that say that sexual harassment is same for women everywhere in the world, I disagree. I feel India is the worst when it comes to women, but more on that later.
After having been to more than 7 countries and more than 15 states in India, I can say that the first responsibility of our safety lies on us and it does so particularly in India where no body else, including the courts, police, administration and the society at large are of no help or rescue.
I am not a solo traveler at all (not in India atleast). It scares me to death but I have traveled with my woman friends and have had lots of fun either in India or in abroad.
I believe traveling is the most enriching experience one can have and we should not be deterred to stop traveling just because some jerks are always on the roads.
I would say read about other solo women travelers who travel a lot and take tips from them on how to travel safely. Second, try to travel safely - make prior arrangements, learn about the place before hand and be smart and vigilant.
Ace traveler Mridula has penned a very useful article that talks about how women can travel safely and solo. Read it here. Also read the nine critical safety tips for women I published on Womanatics and some more safety tips.
What do you feel about women's safety in India?
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