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Women in Goa join forces to stand up for their safety

On the Eve of New Year 2017, Bengaluru witnessed a shameful slew of assaults on women in public spaces. The #IWillGoOut movement emerged from protests around these incidents in the form of national collective of women determined to take back the country’s streets from the reign of fear and misogyny.

The Goa group met on the sidewalks of Saligao Main Road between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on January 21 to show their solidarity with the women of Bengaluru and India who are all marching against street harassment. They chanted slogans and handed out flyers to passersby on how they too can take action to prevent street harassment and assault. The meeting drew the attention of people in cars and bikes stopping to ask what was going on. This in itself was success as the point of the meeting was to capture the public eye and start a conversation on women’s issues in Goa.

The event was open to everyone who believes that everyone has a right to safe public spaces and that violence against women is unacceptable. The gathering included a discussion on women’s access to public spaces in Goa. This meet included Goan women’s rights groups like SafeGoa and Bailancho Saad. Around fifty-six people including women from all quarters joined this meet and shared their observations and experiences regarding women’s safety in different Goan communities. “Sexual harassment and violence continues to be perceived as the survivor’s ‘fault’. We need to engage and take public action to ensure that everyone knows we’re no longer going to take these crimes lightly. The perception of Goa as a safe place is changing rapidly, and this event is to remind everybody, that we need not be afraid. We need to let people know that we’re not going to let Goa become unsafe,” said Radhika Bijoyini, one of the organisers of #IWillGoOut Goa Chapter.

“We are just a group of women who decided we have to do something. As citizens, we have the right to be safe on the streets and to access them without fear/ stigma. We must continue to speak up, share our stories everyday so more people can understand what it means to live as a woman in India. We will continue to occupy public spaces instead of staying indoors because of fear. Let those who harass/assault be the ones who have to fear the consequences of their action. Society owes us women our right to safe public spaces,” said Tania Devaiah, one of the organisers of #IWillGoOut Goa Chapter.

“Goa has witnessed an increase in street harassment incidents, but these are yet to be reflected in official numbers. The lack of numbers means that effective measures cannot be taken by government. In which case there have to be citizen led actions such as this. Studies have shown that the constant presence of women in public spaces reduces harassment. Encouraging women to loiter and stay in public spaces in the night not only make a place safe, it also helps women break stereotypes,” said Chinmayi, one of the organisers and the founder of Safegoa Initiative.

They hope that more people will take the initiative to plan more events in the future. “We should grab any opportunity to collaborate, organise and talk about issues we face and find solutions together,” said Amrita Anand, who is also one of the organisers.

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