WOMEN

As Priya* woke up at 5:30 am, she took the final sip of her coffee and was about to begin her morning prayers when she received a call from an unknown number. A few years ago, she wouldn't have bothered to answer. But now, as a community worker in a resettlement site, calls from unfamiliar numbers have become a routine part of her daily life. A woman could be heard crying at the other end. Priya asked her to calm down and speak clearly. The woman informed her that her husband was beating her up and had locked her inside…

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A little white disc flies through the air; chased by many, and caught deftly by a girl, who then sends it whizzing across the sandy shore. This is a scene that often unfolds along Chennai's Besant Nagar beach, next to the red police booth. The vast, open space afforded by the beach sets the stage for a fun sport, involving a 175g white disc. Ultimate Frisbee is fast-paced, involving seven players from each team on opposite sides of the field, throwing the disc to each other, racing to catch it and passing it along to teammates. The most popular format…

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In view of Women's Day, observed on March 8, Citizen Matters conducted an online survey on women's safety in Chennai. As many as 171 women took part in this survey between the age group of 18 to 51 years. These women were from areas like Sholinganallur, Adyar, T Nagar, Kotturpuram, Thiruvanmiyur, Royapuram, Perambur, Madipakkam, Anna Nagar and other parts of Chennai. Though we circulated the survey across Chennai, many of the responses were from women in the Southern parts of Chennai, indicating the lack of access for women from areas of North Chennai to take part in such online surveys.…

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At the best of times, mornings in a family of four are probably exhausting, particularly for women. Ensuring that everyone eats, gets dressed, heads to school or work on time and in one piece can be chaotic. But mornings in a hot Bengaluru without water is downright soul crushing, says Kala, a 38-year-old woman living in Krishnanapalya. The water shortage in several parts of the city has disrupted the lives of low-income families and put public institutions like schools and hospitals on the edge. Krishnanapalya lies in east Bengaluru. Unlike the 110 villages in the peripheral areas of the city,…

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At 16, when Jency* got married to a man her family chose for her, she dreamt of a blissful life. Her husband, a carpenter, toiled to make ends meet, while she was a homemaker. Life was tough but they were content. "During weekends, he would take us to the beach and once in a while we went to the movies. Eating Delhi appalam and walking along the seashore at Marina Beach with my husband and my two kids is one of my favourite happy memories," she says. That was Jency's life in the past. The sole breadwinner of her family,…

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It was a balmy day in a crowded antenatal clinic in the small town of Haliyal in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. The medical officer indicated to me that he was doing a great service to humanity by killing unborn girls. He would go to villages nearby, on a designated day once a month, to hold mobile clinics and conduct sex determination tests on pregnant women. If the results showed the unborn child was a girl, more often than not, the expectant mother — at her husband's family's behest — would come back to the clinic for an illegal abortion.…

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It has been three years since M Sangeetha, a 25-year-old resident of Nanganallur delivered a girl at the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children in Chennai. Sangeetha is entitled to benefits under the Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme (Dr MRMBS)-Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), which provides cash benefits of ₹14,000 and health kits worth ₹4,000 to pregnant women in instalments.  Despite multiple enquiries with the Nanganallur Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC), Sangeetha has not been able to access the benefits, even after submitting her address proof and supplementary documents. Her husband, a delivery agent, earns just…

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"I would like to go to a police station to file a complaint supporting a 60-year-old woman who is abused by her husband without being told by the police, 'You are already 60 years old. Why would you want to make a complaint against him now and file for a divorce?' I would like to walk into a police station and sit as I please without being lectured by any police personnel that I should not sit cross-legged as it is disrespectful," says Archana, a Chennai-based activist. while speaking about the safety of women in public spaces at the Gender…

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Chennai sees a huge influx of people who move to the city to study and work. Those who move here often stay in one of the many hostels that can be found across the city.  The hostels advertise themselves as a home away from home, with all the necessary amenities and safety and security. While some hostels deliver on their promises of a comfortable stay, others leave residents with a litany of grievances. Numerous residents shared their unfavourable experiences in hostels seemingly prioritising profit over resident satisfaction. While there have been attempts to regulate their functioning, the past efforts have made…

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“You are not allowed to go out after 6 pm”. This is perhaps one of those lines that almost every woman, not just in Chennai or Tamil Nadu but across India, would have heard through the ages. The often-cited reason for this is that public places are not safe for women post-sundown.  Backing up is refrain is a recent perception study conducted by the Gender and Policy Lab in Chennai that found that women in the city generally avoid venturing out after 6 pm. The study also highlights that only 16-17% of women’s travel is for social and recreational reasons…

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