Age and Proneness to Sexual Violence

Age group is also an important aspect of this study because there is clear distinction amongst age groups as some of the age groups are perceived to be highly vulnerable for occurrence of violence and some are relatively less. However, a number of respondents said

.....there is no age category for victims of sexual harassment she could be a 5 year old

baby or a 70 year old lady. Incidents of sexual harassment apply equally to women and girls of all age groups.

Most Vulnerable Age Group

The study reveals that the young adults and teenagers/adolescent were found very high vulnerable whereas elders and infants were found as very low vulnerable. 45 % of the respondents said that vulnerability of young adults is ‘very high’ and 35 % said that ‘high’. About teenagers and adolescent, 45 % said that their vulnerability is ‘very high’ and 32 % respondents said ‘high’. Adults are considered as moderately vulnerable by maximum number respondents (37 %) but some of the respondents, nearly 23 % said that their vulnerability is also high and 17 % said that they are even very high vulnerable. Younger adolescents believed age group of 15-25 to be most vulnerable.

In our FGDs in the slums (Gandhi camp) adolescents were identified as most vulnerable by women between the age (15-25). One mentioned that two school going girls were abducted from outside their school when they went out for lunch break. Another in the same FGD mentioned a young adolescent Muslim girl being raped in the recent past. Another young woman mentioned numerous incidents of harassment herself. Another mentioned a school going Muslim girl being harassed on her way to school.

The elderly people were considered as very less vulnerable by 43 % of the respondents, 31 % said that they are less vulnerable. In the same way 57 % of the respondents were of the opinion that infants and children are very low and low vulnerable.

One of the male students from a college told us that, ‘When boys attain puberty they get attracted to the opposite sex. In this stage boys start teasing girls and sometimes cross the boundaries. As a young boy I have done it and I am ashamed of it and would and to apologize for that.’

Once again a student mentioned a girl being teased by her classmate in school. Some mentioned adolescents between 13 and 16 years of age as being most vulnerable. One narrated the experience of being stalked when she was thirteen. Another mentioned being stalked at while going to school and being whistled at inside a bus. Another school student said,

A few boys from my school tried to touch my private parts. It went on for three days and then I reported it to our Senior Head Mistress.

One mentioned that age did not determine vulnerability because it was well possible for an 18-year-old man to rape a middle-aged woman. Another two echoed the same saying whether an infant or a seventy- or ninety-year-old, a woman always remains vulnerable. However, others identified children, adolescents and young women as most vulnerable. One of the students in FGD in a college also mentioned that ‘even children are not spared’.

One of the respondents told us that aged women are also vulnerable because men think that they are physically weak and would not be able to resist. In another FGD, a college student mentioned seeing an elderly woman being harassed in a bus. In another discussion, in the same place with women over 25 years of age one mentioned a girl of five being kidnapped by a man of 30-35 in the railway station.

Women over 25 years of age in the slums said “ladki paanch saal ki hui nahi ki daar lagna shuru ho jata hai.” but, she considered the adolescent girls of 15-16 years of age as most vulnerable. Even in our FDGs in the slums women mentioned that anyone could be raped at any time and she could be of any age.

In the group discussion, among the male of age group 18-30 years old at Karpuri Thakur Janjeevan Camp (KTJC), expressed Why men become violent? They thought the incidents of violence against women are common place, women often invited or caused their own violation. They pointed out that often sexual harassment was an outcome of revenge for when girls left their partners for ‘greener meadows’ or a logical response to the irresponsible westernized behaviour of women. Often boys confessed that were unable to control their urge to harass women and saw their behaviour as ‘naturally triggered’. Often it involved ‘acting like a man”. This kind of understanding reiterates the patriarchal notions of controlling women and also giving biological reasons for their sexual violence.

Many women confessed that men sexually harassed women just for fun or to prove their machismo or to become popular amongst friends. One of the respondents, a woman professor from a college, expresses how ‘male gaze’ can be so penetrative, and leave an impact on the minds of women, in Delhi said,

While sitting here also I can see a lot of violence happening. The “male gaze”. It rips you apart. Even rape your soul. Not always rape needs to be physical, it can be merely through the gaze. That can be violative. And yes, it is unwanted. But sometimes one may just endure it. There are a lot of equations at work. So the system which grants power to some and let them abuse it also makes some others vulnerable.

Another professor around the age of 45, holding lawlessness to be the reason for feeling unsafe and insecure added,

I think of myself as a brave woman. I am usually not afraid when out. But even then when I have to go out after 9.30 pm, I am scared ‘aadhi ho jati hoon’ meaning I reduce to half. Why? Because of the lawlessness. I am usually not afraid I can kill anyone if need be. But sometimes when it’s necessary, I have to go out then I feel extremely scared. I am almost not able to recognise myself. Because there is no support system. There are many places and times, where I feel very scared. I can no longer relate to myself in such situations. It’s not about wearing vulgar short dresses. I am not concerned about that. That comes much after. My fear is of a different kind.

This narrative gives a clear indication of how women irrespective of age group feels extremely vulnerable and fearful of the violence in the open spaces, owing to the increase in crime against women and the culprits going scot-free and judiciary taking very long time to book them and bring them to justice.

She further questions the name given to the victim ‘Nirbhaya’ which is so ironical, continued,

„.(A) small point which did not come to me on my own but only after reading a blog. This was a blog about Nirbhaya. It questioned this name ‘Nirbahaya’ itself. What is this name- a woman who is fearless who would not break down who is bold and brave. But she had gone through the worst form of violence. There was so much abuse and yet her figure was glorified. But this was sheer helplessness.

The case of Nirbhaya also highlights the glorification of an individual who suffered so much and succumbed to extreme forms of brutality and sex crimes, further giving a name which is exactly opposite to the reality. Further, the case brought public outrage and protests to streets and coming up with new Act, giving hope that the situation would improve. However, post 2013, the situation has worsened, with increase in reporting of cases of sexual violence. The answers are not clear, is it due to increase in awareness and faith in judiciary that more and more women are coming forward to report, rather than silently enduring it. Or whether the crime has really gone up?

What was endured by Nirbhaya has a connect with the elements of safe cities program (UN Habitat 1996) which addresses the following

  • • Building urban safety through urban vulnerabilities reduction: Paying special attention to urban vulnerabilities and violence shall reduce the probability of crime and ensure a secure and safe city environment.
  • • Building urban safety through urban planning, management and governance: Sustainable urbanization by emphasizing inclusive and participatory urban planning, and local development practices, incorporates policy-making and strategy development.
  • • Improving the governance of safety: Enhancing urban safety and social cohesion are issues of good urban governance. They intend to create a city where safety is improved for its citizens and neighbourhoods, where there is fearless interaction among people and groups.

These aspects of good governance will create an enabling environment for the inhabitants of the city, allowing improved quality of life and fostering economic development. Therefore the design considerations which need to be explored for safe city.

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