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.
Hung out on my own enjoying idlis and a little quiet time in a little Munirka restaurant, reading a book at the table..#whyloiter @whyloiter — Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) December 15, 2014
#day2 #whyloiter ? Because I won't conform to some sexist idea of "after hours" and I will take back the night. pic.twitter.com/f8OxhUHoQQ — P. V. Swati (@Swati_PV) December 17, 2014
I like to stand by the road, drink tapri chai and watch the traffic whiz by. #whyloiter — Lawyerette (@chhoti_vakeel) December 16, 2014
For the peace and pleasure in walking. Early in the morning, or late in the evening. #whyloiter @whyloiter pic.twitter.com/DwL8H1BTz1 — Himala Joshi (@Himala) December 17, 2014
After 8 years of negotiating, this year my folks finally agreed to not have a set curfew timing for me to reach home by. #whyloiter — Shruti (@Eveantium) December 16, 2014
For 2 years I worked as a #therapist with the children of prostitutes in a red light area and people asked if I felt safe. Yes .#whyloiter — Sonali Gupta (@guptasonali) December 16, 2014
Because I wish to loiter #whyloiter pic.twitter.com/QalQbzRAZ8 — Little Rocket Girl (@lillrocketgirl) December 16, 2014
Walked home from Brixton at 1am and stood around taking pictures of a church. #whyloiter pic.twitter.com/vfssx9Vnw4 — Shruti (@arreyaar) December 16, 2014
#whyloiter outside parliament street police station. Cuz women have the right to be anywhere, do anything pic.twitter.com/N58hb0dNve — Dhrubo Jyoti (@dhrubo127) December 16, 2014
Asserting women's right to public space for fun in the face of relentless victim-blaming. #whyloiter #RightToRisk pic.twitter.com/MvEhNBNWav — Why Loiter? (@whyloiter) December 15, 2014