Student maps sexual harassment-risk locations

Concerned by the sexual harassment incidents in the city, a student has been working to create a heat map of ‘sexual impropriety’, to help the police address problem locations.

Nupur Patny (21), a fourth-year student at the Department of Human Centred Design at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, who has been working on the project for two months, said her work was fed by first-hand interviews of women at metro stations and with secondary data from other sources.

While the scope of her study is city-wide, Nupur said one particular focus was on women’s safety in metro stations. “The cases of sexual harassment against women in public transits are often under-reported, which adds to the difficulties of women trying to deal with their personal safety problems,” Nupur said, adding this was crystallised by her own experience of encountering unwanted attention at a city station.

Complicating the problem is the fact that much of this harassment is ‘subtle’, involving perpetrators accidentally touching women, blowing kisses, stalking, blocking paths, making lewd gestures, staring, tickling, spitting, taking photographs without permission and adjusting phones to see reflections.

The study shows that women are usually subject to three distinct types of sexual harassment: physical, verbal and non-verbal, Nupur said. Among the data collected is a quote from a woman who was tickled by a man while travelling on a bus: “I yell, but no one reacts. He gets off and smirks at me from the ground. I feel ashamed at my outburst. I’m angry, worst of all helpless.” 

A second component of the study includes acquiring data from a map board of the city, inviting onlookers to use post-it notes to describe specific incidences of sexual improprieties by location.

The board, which Nupur called ‘It’s Not My Fault’, was put up on Sunday on the sidelines of a conference on women’s rights in Bengaluru. It attracted several posts from women, describing complaints ranging from public masturbation to physical assault to streets made unsafe due to lack of streetlights.

Nupur said the end objective of the project was to digitise accumulated data and create a heat map of problematic spaces in the city. The aim is to get the police to view the data and implement corrective measures, she explained. “The data may eventually go into an augmented reality app or platform, whereby people can share their stories online,” she added.

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