Is It Safe For Women in India?

Ever since moving to Bangalore three months ago I’ve seen that there are really so many ways to measure personal safety and security.  And each city is unique.  Off and on for the past 18 years I had been living in a wonderful seaside village called Sitges, located 20 minutes south of Barcelona, Spain.  What had been a sleepy, quiet and peaceful town when I first moved there at the age of 22 has turned into a popular tourist destination with an insane amount of pickpockets and thieves, which is a real issue.  Yet never once did I feel that I was in any personal danger, no matter what time of night or which part of town I was walking around in.  And my daughter, who is now 15, was fine to walk back and forth to school from a really young age.  She and her mates could go to the beach on their own or around town and I never once worried about her.  A couple of years ago they even started taking the train into Barcelona and riding the metro there on their own and it was all perfectly safe.

Yet here in Bangalore, things are quite different.

When I was first starting to look for a place to live, the guys at work insisted that I focus on apartments with security gates and personnel, and not to look at independent houses.  Since it is only me and my daughter, they felt that this was the only option for us “just to be safe” which I was a bit disappointed to hear.  I love the independent houses in downtown Bangalore, and there are so many lovely neighbourhoods with multi-story, fantastic houses.  But okay, we took their recommendation and found an amazing flat that we love.  This was my first heads-up that Bangalore is not necessarily the safest town in the world.

The second night that I moved into the new apartment I arrived home from work and relaxed for a bit and then decided to head out around 21:00 to go check out my new neighbourhood.  I live right on a lovely park with a stunning catholic church adjacent to us and a beautiful mosque just a block away.  So I first walked around the park and then onto the high street, which happens to be Mosque Road in Frazer Town.  I continued up and over a quaint bridge, past local vendors selling fruit and veggies on the street…and right before I was about to come up on the lovely mosque a guy on a motorcycle stops in front of me.  He used some lame topic about fruit to start talking to me but basically wasn’t going to leave me alone.  Luckily two gentlemen near the mosque saw him and came up to the rescue.  First, they told me that they had seen him circling the block a couple of times, which had caught their attention.  They also proceeded to scold me for walking around alone so late at night.  So late at night?  Were they kidding me?  It was 9pm.  Nope!

Turns out that Bangalore is not Sitges, and unfortunately for me – a night owl – I can’t run around my neighbourhood or pop in my headset and power walk around town at night.  It’s just not appropriate for a woman to do.  What a major bummer.  So now, if I want to just run down the street to pick something up from a shop on the high street after 8pm or so, one of the security guards graciously offers to accompany me and of course I accept.

Ahhh the Holy Ghost catholic church is so lovely…I really do love my neighborhood! Except for the fact that I can only head out on foot without a male escort until about 8pm…after that women should not walk alone.

The other eye opener came when I was out with my mates one Saturday night after Skyye Bar closed and we were on our way to a friend’s flat.  At that point we had two cars in the group but had pulled over on the side of the road to wait for another friend who was a few minutes behind us.  All the guys exited the vehicles to chat, so I did too.  When they saw me I was basically escorted back to the vehicle and asked – kindly, of course – to wait inside in order to keep a low profile.  What in the world?  I am not a fan of separate rules for men and women so they sat and explained why.  Each one had a different experience.  One went like this: he had been walking with a female friend in Bangalore when two vans full of guys had pulled up and started to hassle the girl as if they were going to take her.  Luckily some cars came down the street and the guys took off.  But that was a pretty close call and my friend knows he would have been powerless to do anything being so outnumbered.  So he hasn’t forgotten this, hence the rule that we ladies keep a low profile late at night.  Fair enough.

Now it’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong.  In fact, one of the things that I noticed straight away is that theft is almost non-existent here when I compared it to Barcelona and Sitges.  It’s okay to leave personal belongings in plain sight in the car when you leave the vehicle for a while.  No one is going to break in and steal anything.  This includes my laptop and bags, etc.   People leave their helmets dangling from the mirror of their scooter and no one steals them.  When you go into a restaurant you can leave your umbrella outside the door and no one will steal it.  I know this sounds silly but in Barcelona you have a 50/50 chance of someone nicking your umbrella if you leave it.

And my favourite safety tidbit is how safe ladies handbags are here in Bangalore.  I was shocked the first time I walked into a bar and saw ladies purses just sitting around – or even better, sitting around and open!  I couldn’t believe it.  In Barcelona, the pickpocket and bag theft is so out of control that when you live there you actually adapt the way you hold them and you certainly NEVER set them down and let your guard down for a moment or it will be stolen within seconds.  It’s really that bad.  But here, it is safe like in the “old days” and I love that about this city.  At least this is the case at the places I frequent.

In fact, when I am out (on a date with my laptop) writing at a restaurant or bar on my own and need to go to the restroom, I can easily leave my bag and laptop at the table and feel 100% safe that it will all still be there when I return.  I almost always take my handbag with me “just in case” but I do like the fact that I probably don’t need to do that.

XOXO from Bangalore

© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011

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Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 32 countries on 4 continents, residing in 7 of them (currently Kuala Lumpur is my home). By day I'm a digital nomad and by night I'm a passionate storyteller. I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!
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14 Comments on “Is It Safe For Women in India?

  1. I don’t know whether to agree or disagree with the title of the post. There are some famous places in India where truly women are not safe and its not Bangalore. Bangalore is actually a safe place for women, but if I had a sister I would never send her out alone after 8PM or 9PM. Call us old fashioned, but I’ll atleast have a clean/safe conscience if I personally drop my female friends. I stay in an area called CV Raman Nagar which is kind of near to Indirangar. This area is filled with Govt. Scientists and their families, Defence Labs and a huge tech park for the IT people. Starting at 8PM sharp, the Hoysala Patrol(a name of a famous clan, you have to visit temples to find the true meaning of Hoysala) start patrolling the streets in their jeeps and 2-3 cops on bikes keep roaming around the lanes and bylanes of this area. Many ladies roam around the streets till 10 or max 11. And 10-11PM only in this area, other areas it depends on the place they’re in. I keep shifting to a new house every one/two years, and I know almost all the decent areas of this city. There are places where women are suggested not to step out after 8 or 9PM.
    And yet, almost all the Indian men have this primal primitive need to escort women to their destinations. I prefer to call it chivalry. 😉
    Its really really really really really really really really rare that women are harassed here, I’d say if a women’s wardrobe/purse/handbag doesn’t contain a gun or Pepper Spray, we can deem the city/place/country safe.. 🙂 People here take a lot of safety precautions, infact more than necessary. A few years back I used to stay in a strict residential area where each apartment had atleast 3-4 guards, so, to keep themselves awake these guys used to have a ‘safe whistle’ (some kind of code known only to them when they whistle with the instrument). They used to do this all through the night till morning 6 or 7.
    Anyways, my point:- India is a country where people take lots of precautions so that, its safe. 🙂
    Btw, your post reminds me of a fight between my bro & his wife.

    Wife- I need some time out (women don’t use ‘I need my space’ here 😉 )
    Bro -(angrily)fine. (in a slow sweet voice) but come back before 8.

    • Hi, thanks for the comments. I hope it comes across how much I love living here…but I really do detest the fact that I can’t walk at night because it turns dark so early in India, even in summer. In Spain during the peak summer months it stays light out until 9:30pm so you can imagine the change for me…and then being essentially forced indoors or accompanied or driven anywhere once I leave the office 🙁

      And i do really appreciate that my friends act as you do and escort me home. You are truly gentlemen in this regard so hats off to the men of India for that 🙂

    • Wow, I love that blog! Just subscribed. I can’t believe the subjects she touches on and the vocabulary used in the writing…fantastic!! I was freaking out today trying to decidee if I use the word “sex” in my post andd am still feeling a bit reluctant, haha. She’s amazing. Thanks for the link — angela

  2. Nice pic…. I’m surprised how chilled out you seem to be while posing in front of Holy Ghost Church, not bothered one bit about any vehicles coming your way and mowing you down…

    • hey thanks 🙂 It’s a small dead-end street there and occupied more by dogs than anything else so I was quite safe at that exact spot.

  3. Whether Bangalore is really safe/unsafe for women is something I don’t really know for sure. The reason for this is that while I haven’t really had too much trouble or felt particularly threatened in this city, just about everyone has advice and suggestions on how to stay safe. No one really seems to realize how restrictive this advice is, especially when it comes to girls.
    If I had to define ‘safe for women’, I’d include feeling safe even if I’m alone on the streets at midnight. Unfortunately for me, my family will start to frown if I’m not home ‘before it’s dark’. Not that I’ll get into trouble if were to get home around 8 or after that, but my Grandmom would be worrying herself crazy, and would have an earful of advice for me when I got home. It’s ‘just not right’ for a girl to stay out at night.
    So when it comes to Bangalore, or actually India in general, the fact is that I’m safe, but only if I follow xyz conditions that are applicable only to the female half of society. I would probably be okay with those conditions if they were applicable to the entire population, irrespective of gender. But since it doesn’t quite work out that way, I’m just going to settle for an ‘I don’t know’. 😐 😐 😐
    PS: I love the way you find something positive to add on to a post that has a negative comment of any sort. It balances things out wonderfully. 🙂 🙂

  4. Pingback: Groped In Frazer Town – Dang That Guy Was An @SS! « Angela's Adventures in Bangalore

  5. Hey Angela,
    Nice blog, pretty interesting to read about the place where im from and the locality where i was born and bred, well i will have to disagree on the part where you mention ” People leave their helmets dangling from the mirror of their scooter and no one steals them.” because i have lost 3 of them in the last 6 months uner the flyover @ coxtown. Also, local wannabe studs roaming drunk at night get excited when they see a light skinned femme cause all they watch lotsa “ACTION” flicks, if you know what i mean and they think its reality. i had to deal with situations like this while driving around at night where weve been followed for about 45 mins straight….

    • Ouch, sorry to hear about the helmets 🙁 I noticed it in Goa and here in Bangalore but not in busy spots like the flyover at Coxtown. Thanks for the kind comments 🙂 hope you’ll keep reading! –angela

  6. Oh no! I am just like you – I like to go out an about at night! This is going to be a rough thing to get used to 🙁

    I love your positive attitude though, I hope it's contagious 🙂

    • Good luck 🙂  I’ve never actually felt pursued or truly in danger but my guy friends have put enough stories into my head and fear into me that I’m quite careful and try my best not to walk around alone too late at night…. which, with a driver, is quite an easy task thankfully.

  7. My 23 year old daughter who is an American citizen by birth is planning on a short business trip to Bangalore in a couple of months. After reading the many blogs on harassment of women even in Bangalore known to be a relatively safer place than Delhi and other places in India, I am beginning to wonder if it would be a wise idea to visit Bangalore at all. I would love to get some comments please.

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