Foreign women feel unsafe in Chennai

Anjana Kankanala

Chennai, Sept 25: Foreign women living in Chennai say they no longer feel safe in the city. This comes after the recent rape of a Germanand the misbehavior of an auto rickshaw driver with a Finnish woman.

There is a large number of foreigners who have come as tourists or are living and working here.

Maggie Alexander, an American who studied in Chennai for two years, says she used to feel unsafe while travelling alone around the city, even during the day.

“I would try to get other friends to come with me as much as I could, and I always carried pepper spray with me.”

Emmanuela Daniel, the Finnish woman who says she was molested by the driver on the East Coast Road, said the Police had talked her into waiting before filing an FIR (First Information Report). Believing that they would follow up and catch the perpetrator, she went home. Two days later, she insisted on filing an FIR. The police then said that she should have filed it before and that since it had already been two days, it would be difficult to catch the man.

Hemalatha Prasad, a lawyer, says this is a common practice with police where they find excuses not to file FIRs, because once it is filed, their superiors track the case. However, she says, women must insist on filing an FIR.

“If the police are not filing an FIR, women can file a petition before the High Court. Then the Police will file the FIR and follow it up.”

Emmanuela says that perhaps a reason why there is an increase in the number of rapes and molestations of women in India is the accessibility to pornography by everyone on the internet because of the smartphones. “Children need to be educated and informed about sex in school itself and it needs to be talked about, rather than being considered taboo.”

However, in comparison to other cities, foreigners feel safer in Chennai. Candice Nicolas, a French woman living in Chennai says, “I went to Delhi and I felt much less safe than in Chennai. I think more foreigners are living there so local people must get used to it but I had the feeling that it was not the case. They stared at my friends and me and it was not really reassuring.”

In 2016, 34,600 rape cases were filed in India. This was found to be just 5-6% of the total cases, as most rapes go unreported in India.