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By Nupur Dogra

I am a 27-year-old girl living in Delhi. When I heard about the rape and brutal murder of another 27-year-old, in Telangana, I learnt something about myself. I realized being born and brought up in Delhi has conditioned me to get used to living in a city which is unsafe for women.

Expressing constant outrage and disgust on social media about violence against women have done nothing except make me lethargic about this issue. This depressing lethargy has taken over my vigour to persue change and fight back no matter what. Like the victim, I also drive daily from my office to home. Every time my mobile GPS flashes “unknown road”, I struggle with pangs of anxiety at the thought of asking a stranger for the correct route. I keep checking my mobile battery every few minutes to make sure I have enough charge to call someone in case of an emergency. Anyone who sees me drive in my car would be quick to assume that I am living a privileged life. But in reality, I am constantly calculating the risks involved at every turn and U-turn on the road. For many women travelling alone in cities, fear and anxiety are constant companions. It’s akin to living in medieval times where violence can lurk around any corner.

It is troubling that young women are conditioned to live like this. What is more troubling is that I have accepted this fact. New cases of rapes and murders no longer fill me with rage. Now, the first thought that comes to my mind on hearing such news is: “What more can I do to be safe?”

Every time a nationwide uproar is witnessed, a few leaders make bold statements, a parliamentary committee is constituted to make stringent laws and the fast tracking of pending cases is proposed as a solution to deter crimes against women. But why we are only focused on what should be done after the crime has taken place? Why should the main solution to prevent such crimes be women themselves taking precautionary steps? Why can’t we recognize that we are in need for an infrastructure that is safe for women? How long do we wait for society to change?

What is common in this case and the horrendous Nirbhaya case in 2012 is that both the women were travelling at night. It is important to take note that neither public transport nor a private vehicle is safe for women. It is high time the government takes steps to ensure that our roads are safe for women. In the age of artificial intelligence and other such advanced technology, we can’t even ensure that our roads have functional CCTVs. We are still waiting for our law enforcement agencies to recruit more police officers.

If my car breaks down in the middle of the road, my plan will be to sit inside, lock the doors and wait for my father or brother to arrive. The most obvious act–looking for help–seems to be the most dangerous one now, especially after the sun sets. Why can’t we have an efficient helpline number that looks into this exclusively? Why can’t we have more police patrolling the roads? As citizens of India, women have the right to demand safer infrastructure.

To those who ask why the victims didn’t take appropriate precautions for safety, I want to ask why the government didn’t take the precaution first. Women have been raised to be safe since they were born; it is the government that needs to do its part.

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