KD Singh

KD Singh: Make Our Society Safer For Women 

There can be dramatic differences in how we experience our cities during the day and night. A lively public park can transform into a spooky, unsettling environment once night falls. Cities are rarely planned to meet the requirements of people at night or take into account the realities of marginalised communities. KD Singh makes us understand how the demand for safer environment across cities can help in making the society safer for women. 

According to the World Health Organisation, one in three women had been the victim of physical or sexual abuse. Given the prevalence of occurrences worldwide, it becomes natural for women to have perpetual intense emotional and psychological pain. Over many years, this kind of constant and potent stress has impacted their mobility and prevented them from realising their capabilities, hampering not just the individual, but societies and communities at large. 

India ranked an unfortunate 140 on the 2021 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index (GGI). The GGI index, which measures gender equality across nations, bases its analysis on four pillars: economic opportunity and participation, political empowerment, education, and health and survival. India must do well across each of these pillars in order to score well, with economic involvement being of the biggest significance as it directly affects GDP.

In order to advance gender equality for economic advancement, it is crucial that our engines of growth, our cities, make women feel safer, more secure, and comfortable. “The horrific ‘Nirbhaya’ gang rape in 2012 in Delhi caused outcry not just in India but also around the world, forcing the government to change anti-rape laws. Unfortunately, these legal changes haven’t yet stopped or lessened the harassment that women experience in public places,” says KD Singh. Mr. KD Singh adds, “Our public transportation systems, roadways, and even outdoor spaces continue to be plagued with violence against women and girls. Gender-based violence in public places is a broad category of behaviours that includes both non-physical intimidation such as passing sexual remarks, aggressive gazing or pointing and actual intimidation including molestation, physical assaults, acid attacks, and rapes.”

In India, urban planning, which is primarily a matter of design and infrastructure, has never really been linked to safety, which is more of a legal matter. However, by promoting and adopting safe designs, city planners can significantly contribute to the development of safer cities. It is commonly known that neighbourhoods in cities with few or insufficient lamps are more likely to experience crime. The atmosphere is safer for users, especially pedestrians, on well-lit roadways. To support this, KD Singh gives example, “When many American cities lowered street lighting as a cost-saving strategy during the 2008 economic recession, the correlation between insufficient street illumination and female violence became more obvious.”

With regular reports concerning occurrences from large cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, and cities like Trichy and Bhopal, ‘dimly lighted roads’ are frequently cited as a serious problem for women’s safety in Indian cities. To create natural surveillance, our cities must promote bustle and street porosity. People will use streets if land use is distributed so that they are home to a good number of cafes, restaurants, and recreational spaces, such as libraries and sitting areas. To better serve the public, cities should also provide legal space and amenities to the informal sector, such as hawkers, auto-rickshaw stands, and so forth. “Porosity can be produced by limiting the height of boundary walls and turning homes and building gates toward the street,” suggests KD Singh. 

Additionally, economic growth depends on public transportation, which can also be made safer for women. For them to have access to jobs, healthcare, and education, safe transportation is essential. Despite this, there is little information in this area, and there are not much laws, regulations, and attempts to address it. This measure needs more attention in order to achieve a safe and secure city where women can move freely. 

While the architecture and planning of public areas can significantly contribute to crime prevention, how a city handles an inevitable incidence can serve as an example and, from the standpoint of women’s safety, have a direct bearing on subsequent incidents. A paradigm shift toward a gender inclusive urban development approach, where planners are involved in the process of developing an inclusive and safe city for all, is the urgent need for our nation.

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