Crime Against Women

Indian women are loitering to make their cities safer

'All protests are not marches, some are strolls,' says a campaign to encourage women to assert their right to safe public spaces.

Indian women want to reclaim their  cities. Using the hashtag #whyloiter on Twitter, women around the country are demanding their right to go out as and when they feel like.

The hashtag borrows the title of a book about women and public spaces in Mumbai by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade. Since it was launched on December 16, which marked the two-year anniversary of the infamous Delhi gang rape incident, the #whyloiter campaign has received wide support. Women are going out alone to beaches, parks and other spaces typically thought to be safe only for men or groups of women, and posting descriptions of their experiences on social networking sites.

Participants in the #whyloiter campaign are also demanding an end to the survivor-bashing that seems to follow instances of sexual harassment. For example, after a woman was raped by an Uber cab driver in Delhi recent, many people blamed her for falling asleep during the journey.

“In the present environment where the discourse of safety has been taken over by the ideas of protectionism, we need to re-assert women's right to public space as citizens,” Phadke told Scroll.

The right to take risks

Phadke calls this the right to to take risks. “The right to risk asserts women's right to the public,” she said. “It claims that what women want is not a safety which is conditional on them behaving a certain way and being respectable or having a purpose in public space, but the unconditional right to be in public space and to take risks.”

Students from Delhi are among the most eager participants in the campaign. But some participants feel that the campaign will be ineffective without strong government measures to make the cities safer.

“Police and judiciary should stand up for women and support them,” Krishangi Singh, a 19-year-old participant in the campaign told Scroll. “It is only when women are genuinely unafraid of reporting sexual harassment crimes that the change will come to our society.”

Shilpa Phadke agrees that safer infrastructure is key. “Provision of infrastructure ‒ good public transport, clean well lit public toilets, good street lighting and accessible public parks for everyone is a must,” she said.

Phadke added that India needs to move away from a protection-based discourse to a rights-based discourse to change the way society views women stepping out.

Here’s a look at some social media reactions to the campaign.











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