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Women of the night: How women DJs came together to make Delhi’s clubs safer

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We women wanted a change in Delhi’s nightclubs so bad, we decided to bring it ourselves.

If you are a woman who likes to dance but have felt uncomfortable doing so, especially in a city like Delhi, then you are not the only one. In the city’s nightlife, women are mostly absent from either side of the stage: There aren’t enough women DJs performing regularly, and there aren’t enough women who can throw caution to the wind and sway to the music. And no, it’s not because women can’t spin the decks or don’t enjoy dance music. It’s because the access to the industry is guarded by the “brotherhood” of men and their heavy biases.

Six months ago, I met women who were trying to thrive in the live music industry and were sick of the toxic camaraderie of the men in the industry. We wanted a change so bad that we decided we’ll bring it ourselves. Enter Coven Code—a music collective of 19 women in Delhi from different backgrounds and jobs with one sole aim: To create a safe and inclusive culture around sound.

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Since then, we have worked on equipping ourselves with skills by learning from each other. We are women whose expertise range from art, visuals, light and sound production, DJing, to communicating, writing and branding, and we pooled them all together to work as a unit. Many of us learnt how to DJ, and are now performing regular gigs around the city. However, we’re not just managing ourselves as an artists’ collective but we are actively navigating the ways in which women can feel comfortable at night events in the city.

As a woman, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re only surrounded by strange men in a room? It initiates a certain kind of panic. But then you find another woman in the room whom you don’t even know, and just her mere presence gives you a sense of comfort. We at Coven Code realised that we had all faced this. So, in July, we tried out the concept of having “safety representatives” at Coven Code gigs, where a representative member from the collective would be roaming around the arena with a recognisable badge on her. If any woman felt uncomfortable at the gig and needed assistance, they could reach out to the safety representative, who would then take the appropriate steps. What was most endearing to see at our initial gigs was that women could loosen up and unwind when they were dancing to a female DJ’s tunes, being photographed by female photographers, and had other women around them who had their back. Watching that unfold was magical. It gave us the push to do more and do it right.

We are now working towards training ourselves to understand the aspects of safety, which are customised to the nightlife in Delhi, through available literature and help from trained personnel.

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The music community, like any other community, feels like a supportive group until a “bro” sexually harasses a woman and other men choose their friendship with their perpetrator over support for the victim. We were all aware of how unhealthy and underrepresented the inside of the nightlife industry was for women. For most clubs and bars in India, women only make for a good weekday audience and that too, in groups—which is why venues organise “ladies nights” with free alcohol to summon us.

We women of the night are hoping to change this. There are 19 strong personalities in the Coven Code, and we each have our own ideologies, but there’s one thing that brings us together- our vow to break the barriers of biases in the creative music industry and empower women to thrive in it and shake a leg.

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