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One in four girls fears being abducted, assaulted or raped in public places: Survey

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The survey by an NGO shows one in three adolescent boys believes girls should be careful about what they wear and slapping a woman isn’t really violence.

New Delhi: One in four adolescent girls in the country fear being abducted, physically assaulted or raped while venturing into public spaces, a new report has revealed. The report is the result of a survey that analysed the safety perception of girls in public spaces.

The fear is greater among girls in urban areas. About 20 per cent of the girls in urban areas feared they would be physically assaulted, while 11 per cent feared rape when stepping out in public spaces. In rural areas, 17 per cent feared physical assault, while 9 per cent feared rape when they leave home.

The anxiety over physical harm, however, is far higher in young women if their fears of being abducted are factored in.

“If one considers the fact that nearly 30 per cent of the girls interviewed in urban areas and 21 per cent in rural areas fear being abducted while out of home, and the fact that abduction cases in most instances result in sexual abuse or worse, the fear of physical harm was actually quite high in the minds of adolescent girls,” reads the report.

And if they do face harassment, 27 per cent of the girls in urban areas and 20 per cent in rural areas refrain from telling even family members about it for fear of restrictions on movement and being reprimanded.

The survey, Wings 2018: World of India’s Girls, has been published by Save The Children in India, an NGO. It is based on a survey of adolescent girls (11-18 years) and boys (15-18 years), young married women, and parents of adolescent girls. The survey was conducted in rural and urban areas in Assam, Delhi-NCR, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and West Bengal.

‘Women invite trouble’: Adolescent boys

A significant number of adolescent boys continue to think that women often “invite trouble” in situations where they have been harassed or raped, according to the study that also took into account the boys’ perception of girls’ safety.

It found that almost half of the boys felt that men should have the final say in decision-making at home.

One in three adolescent boys believes that girls should avoid wearing certain types of clothes while going out in public spaces and that slapping a woman isn’t really violence.

“One in three boys blame the woman for having provoked some instances of harassment. Again in both urban and rural areas, one out of three boys were of the opinion that a woman is responsible for putting herself in a situation where she was raped,” reads the report.

Public transport the worst

The young girls feel the most unsafe on public transport, according to the report. About 40 per cent of girls in rural areas and 47 per cent in urban areas feared they may be inappropriately touched, molested and groped while commuting in public transport.

It is girls from higher and middle-income groups, the report says, who tend to fear public transport the most since they have had a “cocooned life without the required level of resilience”.

After public transport, the girls fear the local market and the ‘narrow bylanes’ of their neighbourhoods or schools. The study notes that women are as ‘highly uncomfortable’ with crowded spaces as they are with streets they regularly use.

The report notes that in urban spaces, young women, especially those from marginalised sections, tend to fear cinema halls and malls.

“A plausible explanation for this could be that these girls from the slums or economically weaker sections fear that their complaints may go unheard in a place that is occupied by the relatively better placed, class-wise and caste-wise,” said the report.

For similar reasons, SC/ST girls tend to find the road to school more unsafe than girls from other backgrounds, the report noted.

 Lack of faith in law enforcement

About 40 per cent of girls and more than 50 per cent of their parents do not think that going to the police to report a crime would yield a positive solution.

It is widely perceived that the police “would either blame the victim or trivialise the event, take no action, or not act upon their complaint in the event they recorded it”.

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