40 percent Delhi women faced sexual harassment in past year

New Delhi: Despite tougher laws enacted after the gruesome Nirbhaya gang-rape some three years ago, women in Delhi hardly feel safe, says a study that found 40 percent of the women surveyed in the national capital reporting sexual harassment in the past year. About 40 percent of women surveyed in Delhi said they have been sexually harassed in a public place such as a bus or park in the past year, with most of the crimes occurring in the daytime, said the study published online in the journal International Criminal Justice Review. The December 16, 2012, rape and murder of a woman by a group of men on a moving bus in Delhi brought about new laws that doubled prison terms for rape and criminalised voyeurism and stalking. Nirbhaya became the pseudonym given to the gang rape victim whose death in 2012 brought worldwide attention to violence against women.  The results based on a survey of some 1,400 men and women in the capital city further revealed that 33 percent of women have stopped going out in public and 17 percent have quit their jobs rather than facing harassment, or worse, in public places. "What this means is that women, despite Nirbhaya, are still afraid," said one of the researchers Mahesh Nalla, professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University in the US. "Women in India do not feel safe being in public spaces, which is clearly a human rights issue," Nalla noted. While sexual harassment is a problem experienced by women worldwide, it may be more prevalent in emerging democracies such as India and other countries in South Asia where women are becoming more involved in the workforce, Nalla said. The problem is intensified by the existence of a cramped, inadequate public transportation system, massive youth migration to urban areas and the fact that India is a traditional patriarchal society where many still believe a woman's place is in the home, the researchers pointed out. Nalla and co-investigator Manish Madan, assistant professor at Sweden's Stockton University, surveyed the people in New Delhi on a host of issues including perceptions and history of sexual harassment, use of public transportation, safety in public spaces and police effectiveness in dealing with these concerns. The findings showed that 40 percent of female respondents were sexually harassed in the past year and 58 percent were sexually harassed at least once during their lifetime. "The findings from this study highlight the importance and immediacy of addressing women's safety in public spaces and women's human rights," Nalla said.