New Delhi: Five years after 23-year-old Nirbhaya was brutally raped and murdered by five men on December 16, earning Delhi an epithet of "rape capital" of India, has the national capital become any safer for women? Crime data doesn't suggest so and females who live and work in the city and its peripheries also don't feel safer despite resolves by the centre and city governments to enhance women's safety.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Delhi reported the highest crime rate (160.4) compared to the national average rate of 55.2 for 2016-2017. The capital reported nearly 40 percent of rape cases (2,155 cases of rape, 669 cases of stalking and 41 cases of voyeurism) during the period.
Sumitra Girotra, a Haryana girl who works in Noida but lives in a hostel in Delhi, feels "palpably unsafe even in the so-called posh areas of the city.”
"It may be strange to read about women getting molested in the broad daylight but it is certainly not strange to be verbally molested or to get rape threats while walking down the roads in Delhi. I have been a victim many times," Girotra said, recalling an incident when she asked a drunk man to stop staring at her near Mandi House, a few steps away from her hostel.
“It was 8.30 pm. He was peeing and staring at me. When I objected, he turned towards me with his zip down and started abusing me with rape threats. I gave it back to him and tried fighting back. Dragged him to the hostel and called the guard for help. He refused saying it is dangerous to fight them. I called up police and by the time they came, the guy had disappeared.
"The police, instead of looking for the guy, asked me to register a case, give my name and other credentials. I mean it gets more frustrating and worse after you suffer.
"The mindset is certainly universal but the situation here in Delhi is just too bad. I have traveled to other parts of the country...but never felt so unsafe."
Utkarsha Dixit, a 24-year-old Gurgaon-based designer, said it was "indeed scary" for a woman to remain outside home after 9 pm., even if it is a public space.
"You never know which men standing next to you and looking at you can be a potential molester. And taking an auto or traveling in a cab is now even more of a nightmare. I personally never feel safe without my pepper spray, at least it's an immediate option to protect myself. I cannot depend on police as most of the time their helpline number doesn't work," Dixit said.
Sukanya Ghosh, 28, an art designer at an advertising firm, echoed the concerns. She noted that strange fear of traveling alone is palpable even during the daytime.
"I cannot even imagine of going out at night with only girls. I always prefer male friends to accompany me, just for the sake of safety.
"Even traveling in general coaches in metro has often turned into a nightmare with terrifying incidents of being physically molested, that too in public space.
"So, I really don't know where I can claim myself to be in the safe zone," Ghosh noted.
Neha Nar, a medical practitioner from Mumbai who came to Delhi three years ago, said ironically it is a woman and her attire that is often blamed for her ordeal and that makes it worse.
"Questions have always been raised on dress codes for a woman. I have been a victim of molestation even after wearing the so-called "decent" dress. A molester will anyway harass a woman no matter what she wears. But yes, now I have become conscious of what to wear," she said.
Tiasha Dutta Gupta, a PR professional who shifted to the national capital five years ago, shared her experience of living in Delhi.
"After Nirbhaya incident, we had regained our faith that things will change. But little has happened. Police still have a laid-back attitude, women are not comfortable to lodge a complaint, I still feel shivers down my spine when at late nights a car passes by or comes close to me when I am standing alone.
"I still panic when the cabbie takes the lonely dark road. And, I can assure it's not just me. Any other girl in the city would resonate the same feelings," she said.