Women in Bengaluru are wary of taking the Metro late at night due to security concerns.
Many women commuters informed The Observer they are not comfortable riding on the Metro alone after 8 pm, despite the BMRCL providing separate women’s coaches and deploying surveillance cameras.
Tenzing Lhamo, a student from Manipur, said: “I will never ride the Metro alone, especially at night time. I would rather take an Uber after dark.”
The BMRCL announced in September that Metro trains would run between 6 am and 10 pm.Most of the women agreed that Bengaluru is safer than other cities in India, but they would still not use the Metro after 8 pm.
“I always use the women’s section. I never travel alone at night,” said Anjali Menon, a regular commuter, adding that it makes her feel uncomfortable.
BMRCL guards appointed inside Metro stations and on trains often allow women to carry pepper spray as they know that these women will have to use other modes of transport along with the Metro to reach their destinations.
Anjan G, who works for Breakthrough India, a women’s rights organization, shared: “I was waiting for a friend at the Sandal Soap Factory Metro Station around 10 at night. I saw a girl being harassed by a drunk man who was making inappropriate signs at her. I asked her if she was OK, and offered to wait with her until her cab arrived.”
For many commuters, harassment on Metro trains and at stations is not uncommon.
Inspector M.L. Girish of the Banashankari Women’s Police Station categorically denied any complaints of sexual harassment being reported by the Metro authorities or commuters. He said the station does not get any complaints of sexual harassment.
Meenakshi Giridhar of Durga India, an NGO addressing sexual harassment in public spaces, shared: “Going to the police is not a pleasant experience even in most serious cases. The interrogation itself can be humiliating.” She shared an experience she had witnessed while travelling on Namma Metro: “A girl was travelling with me in the general section, and I saw a man constantly looking at her and following her. I noticed it because I am constantly on the lookout for such behaviour. I then tried to engage with the girl, tried talking to her to make him see that she was not alone.”
Giridhar, who interacts with hundreds of women through her NGO, said she knows many women who fear getting stared at by men in the Metro. “Our goal is to create a world where she can just be,” she added.
Most public spaces were inherently designed by men and are advantageous for men. A man can roam freely at any time of the day but a woman can’t. “It is our fundamental right to be free,” Giridhar said.
About the efforts of her organization to ensure safety for women, she said: “We help build allies in the journey of safety. People often see harassment in front of them but stand by silently without doing anything about it. So we train bystanders. A bystander can be anyone from a street vendor, an auto driver, a Metro security personnel to a citizen.
The responsibility of a bystander is to look out for others in need. If you see someone in distress…, you should go and tell her I’ll wait with you until your cab arrives.”
According to the National Crimes Record Bureau’s data on women’s safety, Kolkata is the safest largest metropolis for women in India, while Delhi is the most unsafe.