Nearly 90 per cent women feel unsafe in Bhopal, Gwalior and Jodhpur due to isolated and unsafe areas, according to a study which also found that students and unmarried women were more vulnerable to sexual harassment.
The study was conducted by social enterprises Safetipin, government organisation KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) and NGO Asia Foundation.
The methodology for the study comprised a two-pronged approach of reviewing relevant literature and primary data collection.
The data collection included 219 surveys in Bhopal (77), Gwalior (75) and Jodhpur (67).
According to the study, the main reasons for making women feel unsafe included isolated or deserted places (89 per cent), almost empty public transport (63 per cent), sale of drugs or alcohol in the vicinity (86 per cent) and lack of security (68 per cent) among others.
"Being active users of buses and shared autos, women often felt exposed to threatening and unwelcoming behaviour while using public transport. Findings indicate that instances of sexual harassment were significantly higher amongst students (57.1 per cent) and unmarried women (50.1 per cent ), highlighting their vulnerability," the study revealed.
The study further found that even though forms of harassment such as visual (leering, staring), stalking, verbal (catcalling, whistling) and physical (touching, groping, feeling up) were reported to be rampant, they were not perceived as serious as sexual assault.
"With respect to the kind of public spaces where the harassment occurred most often, crowded spaces were reported to be where there were frequent occurrences.
"About 50 per cent and 39 per cent of respondents listed public transport and marketplace as public places where harassment was most commonly experienced," the study said.
It further said that 26 per cent women reported facing sexual harassment on the roadside while 16 per cent of respondents reported facing sexual harassment while waiting for public transport.
The study also came out with a set of recommendations which included gender sensitisation training, police training programmes, communication programmes on women safety, efficient complaint redressal mechanism and increase in patrolling of vulnerable areas of the city among others.