Women walk alone to reclaim India's streets from fear and harassment

Posted August 27, 2016 from New Zealand
A Blank Noise poster demanding freedom from fear and the right to live unwarned. Akeli Awaara Azaad means to be alone, an unattached wanderer and free. Photograph: blanknoise.org

For women in India, offensive and threatening behaviour in public places is all too common. The Blank Noise collective is encouraging them to fight back.

After a long and tiring day, Neha Khandelwal, 26, fell asleep on the bus in Delhi on her way home. She woke up, startled, when she felt someone grab her breasts. Drowsy and not completely alert, it took her a minute to gauge what had happened. The man sitting next to her on the bus was groping her.

“I felt so vulnerable … that anybody could subject my body to something that I did not want,” she says.

Sexual harassment on the streets or in other public spaces is a common experience for women in India. A recent survey by the NGO ActionAid found79% of womenhave been subjected to harassment or violence in public.

A volunteer-run collective called Blank Noise has been working against street harassment since 2004. In June, it launched a campaign – #WalkAlone – to encourage women to reclaim public spaces.

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