How women in India demanded—and are getting—safer streets

Since a horrifying assault shocked the nation, women there have pressed for more protection from harassment and abuse in public spaces.

A woman walks across a street in New Delhi, near where the gang rape of a woman on a bus in 2012 sparked protests nationwide. In response the federal government fast-tracked court hearings for accused assailants and set up a fund for safety initiatives.

The young women lined up in an awkward half circle, six of them pulling at their long tunics, fidgeting with their scarves. For pants, they’d chosen jeans over the baggy shalwar trousers favored by India’s traditional society—a tiny rebellion. But it mattered, for girls who’d come of age in a southeast Delhi slum. As a journalist, I’d been following their progress in a program that was supposed to raise awareness of women’s safety in urban India, and now, in early 2019, I’d brought some foreign visitors to see what these Gendering the Smart Safe City participants had to say.

“Can we sing our song?” one asked.

Of course, we said. We watched as their stance changed—feet apart, faces lifted, no pretense at smiles. They stared right at us. They made their own hip-hop beat, with knuckle beats, claps, finger snaps—and they started to rap. Rapping in Hindi sounds extra tough:

Read this next

We asked women around the world these 6 provocative questions

For girls in science, the time is now

On today's battlefields, more women than ever are in the fight

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet