Choosing a city to live in is a question most women seriously consider in various stages of their lives, be it for education or profession, and even for settling in with a new family. Aspirations apart, the most important factor that women of all ages consider is women's safety and security in a city.
The United Nations Women defines a safe city as "one where women and girls can enjoy public spaces and public life without fear of being assaulted...one that promotes equal opportunities for men and women in all the spheres of social, economic, cultural and political life."
The City of Pearls came into the top of the list in this regard when the Times of India in 2015 stated that Hyderabad is one of the best places in the country to settle in. Over the years, the city has become the choice for thousands as good schools, high job availability, balanced infrastructure and proper neighbourhoods promoted safe living.
In 2017, a survey conducted across major cities saw Hyderabad emerge as the safest city for women. A majority of the respondents surveyed were from Madhapur, Gachibowli and Shamshabad areas. The city, of course, is not completely safe for women, even for men, but that's a utopian wish and which city in the world can offer absolute women's safety today, anyway? Still, Hyderabad remains way safer than most cities in India.
The Mercer Quality of Living Rating 2018 saw Hyderabad emerge on top for quality of life and safety in a ranking of cities. The report praised the city's quality of air and its efficient police force in maintaining the safety and security of its citizens. According to the Gender Vulnerability Index report released by the women and child development NGO, Plan India, the state ranked 11 in the core dimensions of education, health, poverty, and protection.
The city is definitely safer but what makes Hyderabad tick that even Bangalore slipped on? To begin with, there are two parts to the 'City of Pearls' - Cyberabad and Hyderabad.
Now, Cyberabad is a very safe area for a girl, even around late night or early hours before dawn. The primary reason behind this is the professional infrastructure in place. Hundreds of women work in night shifts and are seen either leaving for home or office accordingly after these late shifts. Several women commute and move around the IT corridor and in the areas of Jubilee Hills and Banjara Hills with ease and without being fearful of harassment. Cyberabad is equipped with CCTV cameras, dedicated police patrolling and presence of SHE teams which ensures women's safety.
In Hyderabad too, one can see women milling around Ram ki Bandi, Krupa, Charminar, Mozamjahi, etc. areas at all times and even late at night. Some of these areas abound with late-night eateries, specialty markets, etc. which operate late into the night. Though, there are a few places here where, irrespective of the gender, one has to exercise caution. Congestion, conservative societal outlook, old traditional neighbourhoods, and lack of CCTV cameras and adequate police surveillance do make precaution and alertness necessary here. But overall, the city is factually quite safe for women.
In mid-2018, the Telangana government prioritized women's safety in the region by setting up the 'Women Safety Wing' which will add teeth to the 'SHE Teams' launched in late 2014. The wing headed by the Inspector General of Police has begun phased training sessions and will soon be a functional asset to the state's commitment towards women's safety.
The SHE Team initiative has gone a long way to secure the city as a safe place for women to be. Until October 2017, the team had cracked down on a total of 4,980 cases of eve-teasing, harassment, stalking, and violence against women. According to an article published on Telengana Today, a woman resident of Yousufguda recounted how the police in mufti had come to their prompt rescue from a few drunk miscreants during the New Year's Eve. The successful concept of SHE Teams has also been replicated in other states such as Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, etc. under different names.
In December 2018, the Hyderabad police launched women patrol teams to bring women police officers in the mainstream society and also to give them duties at par with their male colleagues. The initiative known as 'Women on Wheels' flagged off twenty motorbike teams with two female officers each will focus on crime prevention against women and overall women's safety apart from community policing and creating awareness. The officers were handpicked for an intensive two-month training in unarmed combat, driving, and technical skills.
The City of Pearls, of course, has its own set of problems but it is still setting precedents in the area of women's safety. Hyderabad is one of the eight metros chosen by the Union Home Ministry for the implementation of plans to improve women's safety. The Centre has taken cues from initiatives such as SHE Teams, the Hawkeye mobile app, and the 'Bharosa Programme'.
The women of Hyderabad hope that the city will not lose its dignity, sensibility, and ethos, the bottom line being they still have hope for this city. It is a social responsibility to continue keeping the city a safer zone for everyone and not only the women, but how a city treats its women is often the clearest mirror to its culture and outlook. The City of Pearls believes that ensuring safety for women in public spaces and from violence and harassment, as citizens equal to men, is the need if the city is to truly shine.
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