This weekend, the State Commissioner for Police in Victoria Australia, Ken Lay, resigned due to illness in his family. The work that Ken Lay and his predecessor, Christine Nixon, accomplished in changing police culture on violence against women should be honoured. Intimate partner violence – assault and murder, mostly by men in relationships with women – is the single biggest risk to health for women aged 15 to 44 in Australia. Over the past 15 years, the state police force has not only vastly improved its response to intimate partner violence, but has also been seen as a model for other Australian states to follow. Christine Nixon, the first Australian woman to lead a state police force, battled entrenched police culture from 2001 to 2009. She led innovation in terms of greatly improving police response to intimate partner violence, often against furious opposition from the association representing police officers. Ken Lay, who took over the top police job in 2011, strengthened and consolidated Nixon’s commitment to battling both sexist police culture and differential treatment of violent offences. This change in culture was brought to the fore after the rape and murder of Jill Meagher in September 2012. Jill Meagher was a young woman who lived in central Melbourne and worked for the ABC (Australia’s national radio station). She was followed by a serial rapist while walking the few blocks from a local bar, where she had met up from friends, to an alley near her home. Jill Meagher was one of three women murdered in Victoria the same week, and one of 91 women murdered in the state that year. It is easy to say that her case garnered huge public outcry (with 30,000 people marching on the street where the pub was located, Sydney Road,soon after) because she was young and attractive, middle-class, married, and of European origin. What is harder to recognize is that because she was attacked by a stranger, she fell into a trope: both attacked because of her choice in walking home alone (classic victim-blaming), and seen as an identifiable ‘everywoman’. She wasn’t made anonymous by being put in the basket of those ‘other’ woman who are killed by their male partners. The conservative state government reacted to the outcry about Jill Meagher’s murder by offering local councils more closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) This response flew in the face of evidence that the presence of multiple CCTV cameras along Sydney Road played no role in either the prevention of her murder, or the apprehension of her killer. And this was one of those times when the changed police culture mattered. I was at a public meeting in the local council where Jill Meagher was murdered a few months later, debating CCTV. A police officer showed a map of where violent assaults and murders took place in that jurisdiction. There was a slight cluster along Sydney Road, but the most apparent pattern was scattering in residential neighbourhoods. In other words, for the first time in my 25 years of working on violence prevention, I saw violence in the home being mapped alongside violence on streets and in pubs. The sheer absurdity of a localized CCTV response to a problem that is everywhere and affects everyone was brought home, not by a feminist activist, but by a police officer. In one of its first public statements, the new Victorian state government has announced a commission into family violence. I am cautiously optimistic that the rest of government might catch up, in this instance, to the police. Carolyn Whitzman is Professor of Urban Planning, Acting Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning and Stream Leader, Access to Public Goods, Melbourne Social Equity Institute
Johannesburg inner city, although less than 130 years old, presents as tired and over-burdened. Developed and evolved as a thriving business hub, the city centre is now home to an estimated more than 500 000 people. The population is multi-cultural and multi-lingual and there is tension amongst widely varying nationalities. Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW), an NGO that delivers essential outreach services n in the inner city, initiated a project almost three years ago, using the Social Transformation System™ (STS) methodology, to mobilise a collaborative approach to achieving a “best life” for young inner city women and children. The methodology facilitates the drawing of an inclusive, shared transformative spatial and social vision. Participants agree to an intuitive benchmark starting point or current status and commit to appropriate skills, capacity and resources to move the whole towards this vision. The project has recruited more than 60 partners since inception; key among these is the Regional City Management of Joburg, including the political office responsible for the area. Other partners range from NGOs and CBOs to Resident Associations and local Businesses. The project is site bound and includes two heritage sites – the Old Drill Hall and St Mary’s Cathedral, both rich in their historical links to the Apartheid struggle. JCW delivers programmes at the Old Drill Hall to young women, and offers play programmes for children. The area around sites is chaotic. Taxi ranks receive and dispatch over 22000 taxis every day, disgorging 500 000 people into the environment. The streets and pavements are heavily congested and traders, both legal and illegal contribute to constant noise and jostling as well as throwing waste into already clogged storm water drains and gutters. Women suffer endless harassment, thuggery and worse; there is minimal respect for law and order and few places for women to turn when victimized. In the STS visioning process, women aspired to an inner city in which they could walk safely, dress as they pleased, sustain a livelihood and enjoy leisure activities during the day and in at night. Using the vision as a long term “destination” against which to measure progress, partners in the project initiated a collaborative strategy to improve accessibility, mobility, health and safety of the users of the sites. They did this via a combination of advocacy, urging and supporting all relevant departments of the City to clean and maintain the area and enforce by-laws, and by integrating their efforts to deliver preventative and support services to their users. Last year on World Aids Day this day, the area was cleaned up and there were real signs of progress. This year however, things had regressed and grime again characterized the precinct; women reported that they were fearful as they walked through the streets and the surrounds of the Cathedral are quite revolting from use as a toilet. The Drill Hall precinct was awash with litter. Clean-up programmes and by-law enforcement campaigns had dwindled in the face of lack of interest of the majority of the ever changing, always conflicted, incoherent “community” that makes up the inner city dwellers. The women delivering essential support and psycho-social services to women in the inner city said they feeling threatened. The lessons for the partners are hard; for every step forward, there seem to be two backwards. In as much as it is hard to rally and sustain action amongst the protagonists, they continue to strive towards their goals of a safer inner city and a best life for all. The crucial missing link however is sustained community commitment to this vision. Women are reluctant to participate, often hiding away from formal engagement, many because they are undocumented and fear reprisal, either for themselves or often, for their children. There is a desperate need for collective ownership of place and agency to bring dignity and peace to the inner city. Perhaps where survival takes precedence over all else, it is too much to ask that kindness, respect and love should guide behaviour and create an environment that protects the vulnerable, nurtures the young and supports the achievement of all. The STS is premised on the knowledge that complex problems have no simple solutions – and that while they obviously demand collaborative approaches, these are difficult and require above all, resilience. The methodology provides for fully participative longitudinal assessment and inclusion in planning and decision-making based on lessons learned. The partners will regroup in the New Year and try again, this time with an even greater emphasis on mobilizing inner city “communities” to participate in new behaviours that will benefit them all. The key to sustainable safety for the women of the inner city however, remains elusive. AUTHOR: Barbara Holtmann is a feminist who uses her Social Transformation Systems methodology to harness the voices, skills, interests and capacities of women in community safety and development strategies.
On 5th December, 2014 in New Delhi a woman was raped in a cab. The incident came a few days before the second anniversary of the 16th December rape case where another woman was fatally assaulted inside a moving vehicle. The incidences of crimes against women in Delhi are very high according to the NCRB report, and have particularly gone up in the past two years. Most women in this city and I am one of them, feel that their mobility is severely restricted due to the fear of violence. The cab in this case was registered with an international cab aggregator app called Uber. The Uber Case as it is now called has led to widespread criticism of the policies of the company for their lax procedures on checking on drivers past offences. The driver of the cab drove the girl to an isolated spot and raped her. The case makes a strong demand for bringing systemic changes so that companies perform mandated background checks on drivers and forgery of documents can be nipped in the bud. While strengthening these systems is crucial, it is also useful to work on broader issues such as making our cities safer and more comfortable for women to use - improving public spaces in cities. The condition of roads, the street lights, visible policing, the presence of people, and availability of public transport are all factors that impact the safety and accessibility of public spaces. . To understand the safety concerns along the route that the Uber driver took that fateful night, a safety audit was conducted of the route using the Safetipin App. We take this route as an example to understand what we can do to make our cities safer for women. Safetipin is a map-based mobile phone application which works to make our communities and cities safer by providing safety-related information collected by users. At the core of the app is the Safety Audit. It consists of a set of 9 parameters that together contribute to the perception of safety. The nine parameters include - lighting, openness, visibility, crowd, security, walk path, public transport, gender diversity and feeling of safety. Each audit results in a pin on the specific location where the audit was performed along with the time and date of the audit. Physical Infrastructure The stretch from Dhaula Kuan to Mayapuri has very few bus stops and hence people have to walk long stretches to get to a bus stop to avail public transport. Also very few autos stop on this stretch. The condition of the walk path along the Delhi Cantonment area is very poor and kilometres of the pavement have been dug up. Further down the route from Moti Nagar via Zakhira to Inderlok also has very poor pavements, in most places, especially in Zakhira the pavements are absent and pedestrians have to walk on the main road with the motor vehicles. Lighting The whole stretch from Dhaula Kuan up to the Naraina Flyover is poorly lit. The bus stops on this route have poor lighting; some stops that are well lit are only due to digital advertisement boards present at the stands. An obscure and unmarked bus stop just off the flyover at Dhaula Kuan only has light from the stalls of the street vendors. The bus stops in Naraina, Kirti Nagar, Maya Puri, MotiNagar, Zakhira and Inderlok were deserted and had very poor lighting. The metro stations were fairly lit but the boundaries and parking lots were dark, At Kirti Nagar the area just outside the Station has garbage dumps and men urinate openly on the pavement. The Inderlok Metro Station has multiple entrances and the area under the Metro station is poorly lit. Due to the winter season the visibility is further restricted by the smog Accessibility The infrastructure of the route is not favourably built to increase accessibility. For example for people with disabilities we found no ramps. Also for the general users the pavements were very poor and at most places pedestrians would have to walk on the main road. Gender Usage of spaces The gender usage of spaces was somewhat diverse. There were mostly male passengers, street vendors and auto drivers. There were also some women waiting at the bus stops, inside the metro stations and outside the metro stations for private cabs. Families of homeless people were seen sleeping outside Pratap Nagar and Inderlok metro stations. The gender usage on the outer ring road is not diverse, in all the spots the female auditors were the only women on the road, bus stops and gas stations. Visible policing and police patrolling Check posts were mostly absent and 4 PCR vans were observed patrolling near the MotiBagh Gurudwara Nanakpura bus stop and Inderlok metro station. CISF officials were seen inside the metro stations. The Gurgaon‐Naraina subway was guarded by a contractual worker. The last police patrol on a bike was observed before the Dhaula Kuan flyover from here on the auditors saw no police patrols till the Kirti Nagar Metro Station which had police inside the station and not outside. The Delhi Cantonment area was also not policed. At Zakhira we saw no guards or police patrols. The area had a deserted look and only had one auto and a few male pedestrians. The auditors then found police presence inside the Inderlok Metro station. The areas under the metro station had no police. Signage The sign boards for directions were clearly visible on the ring road stretching from Kirti Nagar ‐ Naraina (Industrial area), Dhaula Kuan Passage, Dhaula Kuan complete stretch, MotiBagh and New Moti Bagh. The emergency helpline numbers were found to be displayed inside the bus running on route number 442 and metro from Pratap Nagar till Inderlok metro station on the route. The bus stop after the Dhaula Kuan Flyover had no signage, we stopped to ask the men standing there and they told us that it was a bus stop. The ‘Last mile’ Connectivity: As the evening grew later there were very few autos and rickshaws outside the metro stations. No metro feeder buses were seen. On the outer ring road no autos stopped when we tried to hail one. At Kirti Nagar Metro Station there were rickshaws that were going to Kirti Nagar and Moti Nagar only. The Safetipin App is a useful tool to clearly define exactly what needs to be improved to make public spaces safer and more accessible for women and others.
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.