Feminist organizations and researchers have worked for decades to create safer cities for women and eradicate gender violence. Despite the progress made, gender violence continues being a major issue today in most societies and it reflects the impacts on gendered, racialized and sexualized bodies of a patriarchal and a capitalist society. Several organizations and women’s groups in different parts of the globe have implemented programs to promote women’s safety, for example, using the safety audit tool. There are still challenges that we face in the struggle against gender violence. One that has been persistent is the reproduction through policies and practices of the public-private division, in particular in the urban planning field, which prevents planning to effectively address gender violence. As a way to challenge this divide, we propose using the actual space of bodies to further challenge the public–private constructed division and advance planning practice. Violence is directed at and within bodies with various identities (gender, race, sexuality, citizenship status), thus understanding how bodies as geographic spaces feel and experience violence and fear has the potential for dissolving the public–private divide and collecting data to be including in planning policies and practices. One of the methods that can be used to include bodies as geographical space of analysis is body-map storytelling. Since the 1980s body-map storytelling has been used with different populations, for example, with women to explore issues of sexual health and reproduction or with migrant people to document migration experiences and health concerns. Body-map storytelling could be a powerful planning tool to support the understanding and analysis of women’s safety, since fear and gender violence are directly attached to women’s sexualized bodies. A body-map story usually includes a life-size body map where each person draw how their body has experienced any type of violence, fear, the impact of the urban environment in their bodies, as well as areas of strengths and power. The body map is usually accompanied by a testimonio, a brief story narrated in the first person about the experience of creating a body-map and the meaning of what the person has drawn. Body-map storytelling can be integrated in the existing safety strategies from a gender perspective, and safety audits toolkits as an example. It can also be combined with other existing tools, such as community mapping as a way to build a continuum between the private and public sphere. Col·lectiu Punt 6, a feminist organization of women architects and urban planners based in Barcelona, Spain, is starting to include body-map storytelling in their projects. The organization has developed in the last ten years a set of tools to include women both as objects and subjects of community planning, and as experts of everyday life. Through the combination of body-map storytelling, collective exploratory walks and community mapping women discuss gender violence, fear and safety through personal embodied experiences and community assessments. As a result, safety audits can gather additional information about safety perceptions. Authors: Sara Ortiz Escalante is a member of Col·lectiu Punt 6 and a PhD Student at the School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia Elizabeth L. Sweet is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Temple University, Geography and Urban Studies, For more information about the use and potential of body-map storytelling you can read Sweet, Elizabeth. L., & Ortiz Escalante, Sara (2014). Bringing bodies into planning: Visceral methods, fear and gender violence. Urban Studies, 0042098014541157.
The continuing spate of media reports around rape and women safety concerns in Delhi have started to have unexpected consequences. Sarita is a single, 29 year old executive whose mother stays with her. Post a particularly heinous incident, Sarita’s mother began calling her at work on a regular basis to make sure she was safe. The calls would increase after 5pm and would continue till Sarita reached home. Since she often travelled back with her friends taking calls was becoming embarrassing. One day after the 5th call during the car ride, Amit, one of her colleagues made a suggestion – to download a tracking app onto both hers and her mother’s phone, so her mother could see where she was. That weekend, Sarita did her research and downloaded a recommended safety app which had the best reviews. She installed it on both phones. Now her mother could track her through GPS and could see where she was at all times. For two weeks, the calls stopped. Sarita and her mother were both happy. The third week, Sarita’s phone ran out of battery and she did not remember to put it on the car charger. She got home to a very frightened mother. What happened? Why cant I see you? She calmed her mother down and explained that it was only because of the battery issue. She promised to buy an extra battery pack so that it did not happen again. The next week, she wanted to go out for dinner with friends. She called and told her mother not to worry, because she was going out to a friends house – her mother was not very supportive of her going out for dinner. But this time when she returned home, there was a big scene. Her mother had tracked her and figured out that she was not with the friend. It became clear to her that even switching off the tracker would not help, because her mother would panic more. After another 6 weeks, Sarita lost her phone and replaced it with a feature phone. She is back to getting calls from her mom because she can no longer be tracked. And she is happier. A similar scenario is playing out around the world. The ability to track the movements of a loved one or friend, is very tempting. The idea of being tracked at all times as a safety method, can easily become a stalking system. We all need our privacy and also need to be safe. Solutions are required to ensure ‘peace of mind’. It should be possible to be tracked only when an unwarranted situation happens – not otherwise.
The recent events in Delhi have once again highlighted the need to be careful, and take appropriate safety precautions. It is also important to maintain perspective and not allow specific incidents to change the way we live our lives. The SafetiPin tracking feature is something that allows the user of the app to control their lives a bit more and be safer. It is not a stalking app – in that control is with the person being tracked and not the tracker. Hence women and other vulnerable individuals can use this Personal safety app when they feel uncomfortable and want someone to know where they are, without necessarily being tracked at all times. The SafetiPin tracking feature works when both the tracker and the person(s) tracking have the SafetiPin app installed. They can be Android, or Apple, or Windows users. The person who wants to be tracked can identify friends who can track them in Settings. Once this is done, tracking will be started once the person selects the ‘Track Me’ option in the Menu. This will continue till the same key is selected again. The receiver can see all the people who wish to be tracked by selecting the ‘Track’ option from the Menu. They will see the route being taken by the person as a pin every two minutes. There is also an ‘Emergency’ feature. Selecting the Emergency button, sends sms and emails to selected friends, who do not need to be SafetiPin users. Tracking is possible even on a browser. The Emergency can be called off only by selecting a special code, to prevent a person being coerced into sending the message.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), DKI Jakarta’s Vice Governor, encourages the citizens of Jakarta to start using the Safetipin app. As being reported by Kompas.com last Tuesday (14/10), Ahok asked the head of every district and village in Jakarta to download the app, so that the officers may respond to people’s responses in no time. The process may also be an opportunity for Ahok to assess the performance of the officers. “On SafetiPin, people may report using pictures as well. The technology is free, and compatible with any type of smartphones, even low-end Chinese smartphones,” Ahok stated. Ever since Joko Widodo and Ahok were elected as DKI Jakarta’s Governor and Vice Governor, the DKI Jakarta local government has always put their focus on the development of technology to support public services
City Planning – Built Environment and Personal Safety Many researches indicate that real and perceived dangers of personal safety restrict an individual's lifestyles and movement. But still we find that a significant portion of our physical activity like walking, cycling, and physical exercise takes place in the public environment of our neighborhood. Now, is there any link between personal safety and the built environment? Which public policy or urban planning interventions can instill a sense of safety in your neighborhood? Which elements of the urban design and development discourage criminal activity? Can we thwart crime by changing the built environment of our neighborhood? Crime and the Built Environment Today, interest in the link between the physical environment and crime is growing because of increasing crime incidents. The idea of crime prevention through well-thought-out urban design and development plan is attracting particular attention today. This is because of the growing pace of urbanization. Modern city designs in many cases are typically undermining people’s ability to observe public streets. People are restricted to their individual housing units, thus breaking down informal social control of criminal activity. Many city designers view natural surveillance (“eyeballs available on the streets”) as a good deterrent of criminal activities in your neighborhood. Thus, crime and the physical/built environment are related in an observable and controllable manner. The physical or built environment exerts a direct influence on criminal activities in your neighborhood. It does so by marking territories, increasing or decreasing accessibility by creating or eliminating boundaries and circulation networks, and by facilitating surveillance by the individuals, groups and the police. SafetiPin provides information about infrastructure and other physical attributes of a place to promote safety for women and other groups. SafetiPin mobile safety app facilitates public policy and urban planning interventions to instill a sense of safety in your neighborhood.
Personal Safety Awareness – Staying Safe The key to personal safety is staying aware, and doing what we can to avoid potentially dangerous situations. There are instances when there is nothing we can do to prevent personal safety hazards and harassments, but every day we see people putting themselves in danger, which could be avoided by following a few simple tips. The following points give you insights to increase your awareness and stay safe. 1. When walking the streets at night Stay aware of your surroundings, especially after sunset. Avoid poorly-lit areas. If possible plan to take someone with you; plan your route well in advance to know the “safe” places (24hr pharmacies, ATMs, police, hospital or transportation services). Check SafetiPin Locate feature to get a list of “safe” places around you. Take your cell phone but don’t let it distract you. Avoid listening to music and observe your surroundings. Stay Calm and be assertive – do not let anyone violate your space. Trust your instincts and act cautiously. 2. When you are taking out your own vehicle Plan your route in advance. Know the “safe” places on your route. Park your vehicle in a properly-lit and populated area. Always lock your doors. 3. If someone makes you feel threatened on the street Immediately walk into a crowd, and if required, ask passers-by if you can walk with them. Immediately change your direction; walk into a store, restaurant, or any well-lit building or house. Trust your instincts and keep your demeanor assertive. 4. If you are being assaulted Remember, you may fancy a chance to be able to distract, scare, or even disable the attacker. Disable enough to escape! Start screaming out Fire! Help! Until and unless something very valuable is at stake, it is advisable not to resist—it's simply not worth the risk you take on your personal safety. 6. If assaulted or harassed, always report – both formally and with SafetiPin Police will investigate your reported incident and will be able to identify a crime pattern, to be able to work to eradicate it. Law Enforcement authorities will put out an alert to the residents. SafetiPin data thus collected, and aggregated with professionally collected safety audit data, is used for advocacy and research. All this helps city authorities and public administration departments work on problem areas threatening personal safety of people. Always put Safety at the Top when going out. Especially when you’re going out at night. This could be for work, or for personal reasons. Remember to place your personal safety at the top, when going out and stay safe.
Need of Safe Public Spaces to Give Women Freedom of Movement What is the relation between safe public spaces and a woman’s freedom of movement? Let’s explore! All forms of sexual violence in public spaces, like sexual harassment etc., are everyday occurrence for women and girls around the world. This is true for both developed and developing countries. Women and girls actually experience as well as fear various types of sexual violence in public spaces. Sexual violence can be anything from sexual harassment to sexual assault including rape and femicide. All this happens on your city streets, public transport and parks, or in your own neighborhoods. These occurrences and fears reduce women’s freedom of movement in public spaces. The everyday nature of such violence against women almost normalizes it, and women learn early how to deal with such harassment. It reduces their ability to participate in usual day-to-day work and in public life. It also negatively impacts women’s physical and psychological well-being. Although, we hear a lot on this topic i.e., violence against women, especially sexual harassment in public spaces, it remains a fairly unattended issue. As such, it becomes crucial to prevent harassments of all type. We must work to develop safe public spaces for women. How do we do that? First and foremost, we have to change our mindset and understand that women too have the right to use public spaces without any fear. Secondly, cities must be planned in such a way, that these are accessible and inclusive for even the most vulnerable groups like women etc. And finally, we need to work on infrastructure like lighting and streets etc. Safer public spaces make women and girls feel assured while moving around a city. We must provide them with their right of safe public spaces. Infact, the right to safety must be a goal at city level.
Are Indian cities any safer today for women than they were before the infamous 16th December incident in Delhi? How safe or unsafe Delhi's women and girls feel in the city's public spaces today? With SafetiPin safety audit data, if we go back to see what, if anything, has changed or improved in women's feeling about safety in public spaces, we find that things haven’t changed much. What SafetiPin audit data reveals is really eye opening. These safety audits include feelings reported by men and women to share their personal safety experience. From the city streets to the city bus stops, to crowded local market places, women reported that they don't feel safe in public. It restricts the lifestyle of a woman to be in constant fear of some kind of personal safety hazard. It cannot be neglected as it has profound impact on a woman’s lifestyle. This includes daily routines and their emotional and physical health. The new government has taken some important steps to deal with this problem of violence against women. But a lot is yet to be done to tackle this serious problem, affecting lifestyle of women in Indian cities. But every cloud has a silver lining. SafetiPin is being used as an important tool for change. SafetiPin safety information is used by NGOs as a tool for advocacy. Public service providers (such as the PWDs) use the information to improve their level of service. SafetiPin ensures that the streets, bus stops and any other public spaces are safe and free from violence for all.
There are some restaurants / pubs in a mall in Gurgaon, India which have been in the news for violence and harassment of women. Police have to visit due to complaints and occasionally fights have broken out outside (or even inside) these places. This mall is on a road which is a main hub of the city and there is always traffic on the road. It is brightly lit, and the metro runs over it. . There are wide pavements (not all in good condition) and there are a lot of people present, of all genders and ages. In sharp contrast, there is a neighbourhood leading off from this road. After the first 100 metres, lighting is feeble, and houses have high walls and gates. After dark, there are very few people there, and there are hedges which throw long shadows at night. There is very little reported crime in the area. The SafetiPin audits showed the first area as being among the safest places anywhere, which the housing colony was in the lower half. This was initially difficult to understand, till we supplemented our findings with interviews with a few people. The result of the survey was actually quite intuitive. The best articulation came up in one of our interviews. The person interviewed said ‘If I was waiting for a friend, I would feel safer waiting in the road with the malls, than inside the housing colony’. And that made sense. So in effect, the perception of safety may not be the same as the likelihood of violence / harassment. A deserted, dark road may feel unsafe, but since it is deserted, there is no-one there to commit a crime. If a cat were to jump out in such a street, we may lose some teeth (from the impact of our heart jumping into our mouth), but would reach home safely! In summary, we need to improve both the reality and perception of safety. To know more about SafetiPin, do visit our website, and download the app.
The SafetiPin team hosted a Tweetathon on Building Gender Inclusive Cities. The session was held on the 9th of September, 2014 at 16:00 IST. The session saw tweets from organisations, activists, news and media outlets, academicians and netizens from across the cyber world. Safetipin used its Twitter handle to moderate the discussion that sought the views and suggestions on questions like what is your idea of a gender inclusive city? Why is your city not gender inclusive? Who is accountable for gender inclusive cities? What can we do to make our cities safer for women? And finally we sought creative ideas to educate and promote gender inclusive cities? All tweets carried the hash tag CitiesForWomen. By the end of the hour long session our # was trending on Twitter indicating high usage and conversation on the subject. A few snapshots from the Tweetathon are captured below - The convergence of ideas on building safer cities on social media created a space for people from diverse backgrounds to share their opinions and be heard. Our Co-Founders Dr. Kalpana Viswanath and Ashish Basu shared their views on how to enhance women’s safety in the city, our friends from Jagori tweeted suggestions on reclaiming spaces that are scary by painting them. Our partners SafeCity talked about mobility without fear. Sanya Seth gave suggestions to restaurants, asking them to audit their area so that their customers can enjoy a safe environment. Overall the discussions were lively and enriching and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We would like to thank the participating organisations – Safecity, Jagori, Breakthrough, Youth Ki Awaaz, FAT, Hero Project and Stop Street Harassment. We are looking forward to our Blogathon next month. For more exciting conversations on safety in your city follow us on – Twitter – @safetipinDOTcom Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/safetipin