Feeling safe vs Being safe – are they the same?

Feeling safe vs Being safe – are they the same?

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 was completely opposite to the housing colony.  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.

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