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Is Mumbai really safe for women?
Mumbai used to be regarded as India’s safest city for women. But this reputation seems to be taking a beating as crimes against women are reported daily. The New Year's molestation incident was an eye-opener for India’s ‘safest city’.
AFTER THE New Year hangover, all of Mumbai woke up to gory images of two women being molested and hounded by a mob of about 60 people outside one of Mumbai’s posh hotels, the JW Marriot in Juhu. The mob tore up the woman’s clothes and groped for about 15 minutes even as the girl’s male companions tried to protect them. But the companions were completely overpowered by the crowd. Hindustan Times lensmen, who were present, captured the gory images on camera. The big posse of police personnel posted close to the venue was later alerted by the lensmen, after which they drove away the miscreants.
 
The incident occurred at about 1.45 am on Tuesday night when the two girls, returning from the hotel, were headed for Juhu Beach in a Mumbai suburb. Downplaying the incident, police commissioner DN Jadhav accused the media of making a “mountain out of molehill.” He added, “Such things can happen anywhere, anytime. Here also, where I am. It is just an offence. Why are you blowing it out of proportion?”
 
A similar incident had shamed Mumbai exactly a year ago, when a girl was molested by New Year revellers at the Gateway of India. That incident too was captured on film by a popular Mumbai tabloid.
 
It seems that Mumbai may soon lose its ‘safest city for women’ tag. Until December 2007, 160 cases of rape were reported and there were about 1,100 cases of molestation, eve teasing and other crimes against women. The number of rape cases has been gradually growing every year. Thus, a woman is raped in Mumbai every two days. These are just the official figures and represent only partial reality. There are thousands of cases, which go unreported.
 
Earlier in July 2007, Mumbai was outraged by another eve teasing incident. The victim, 10-year old Asma Sheikh, was trying to cross a road when suddenly a jeep flashed past her and the men inside the jeep sexually teased the young girl. The girls’ skirt got caught in the jeep’s metalwork and she was dragged along the road. She screamed in fright till the men stopped the vehicle and ran away. Asma was in hospital with severe injuries to her legs and spine. She underwent three surgeries but her trauma is far from over.
 
Yet all these incidents can’t stop women from venturing into the streets, either for work or for partying. Women are as much a part of the society as men. In the ‘city that never sleeps’ women commute back from work even in the middle of the night, sometimes. These incidents meanwhile have damaged the image of Mumbai. But we need to realise that it is not the media that is damaging the city’s reputation. The mob, which committed these atrocities, comprised of people like us, the Mumbaikars. Such shameful incidents reflect that women in our society are not given the respect that they deserve; they are seen as mere objects of lust.
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