Hyderabad: Travelling alone in a cab or returning home from work — late evening or at night – continues to be cumbersome for the city’s women. Many say that they are jeered at or checked out by perverse eyes as they try to simply get home. Last month, Shamoli Das (name changed) was driving home from a Secunderabad temple. She was dressed modestly and traditionally. That did not stop a youngster from following her till her doorstep and staring at her.
This is the proverbial wet blanket on the cops’ caller tune, ‘people-friendly police’. “There was no fear in his eyes as he followed me home. I tried calling the police to scare him, but their lack of action only emboldened him. I had to call my husband to scare him off,” she rued.
Despite the husband, the miscreant merely said he was not following her. “He just sat on his scooter, making a mental note of my address, and then drove off.” This may be one-off but there are plenty situations where women are jeered at when they go out for dinner or drinks. “Once when I tried to enter a restaurant that serves alcohol, men tried to crowd me and did not give me space to move,” said Swetha of Punjagutta. “It was as if they were trying to grope me. Fortunately a fight broke out and I escaped.”
Women are harassed even in moving cars or autos. “On a bus there are times when men try to occupy the women’s seat, and try to huddle with the opposite sex. I had to stop taking the bus, but cabs are no better. Every time I board a cab I have to inform my parents or brother of the cab details. Why? Am I not entitled to my dignity?” questioned another woman from Bowenpally.
Women also recall when they were asked to get off a moving cab in the middle of nowhere, sometimes by the auto driver. For some it feels like a premeditated plan of assault, individually or by a group.
Sudden decisions by auto drivers are a major problem. The drivers say that dark alleys are dangerous for them, but what about the woman passenger they are abandoning?
Often a woman has to bribe them to get through dark alleys. These deserted spots are mostly on the under-developed outskirts, two to three kilometers from the main road. They are such that there is no other public transport.
Most have to wait at a paan shop or a bandi and call their family.
These problems are constant. And now Priyanka Reddy’s case is cause for further alarm.