New Delhi: Conversations around women’s rights in India and their safety changed after the December 2012 Delhi gang rape that led to the death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student.

Laws changed, crimes were redefined, but it was only after that incident that the safety of women on the streets became part of the general public discourse.

What followed was that political parties made women’s safety a part of their election manifesto, funds were allocated for street lighting and for setting up a unified system at the national and state levels which would track through emergency buttons and video recording in public transport vehicles in 32 cities, among other measures. However, since then, not a lot has changed on the ground.

While different levels of government are addressing women’s safety in public transport now, “urban transport investments are largely gender blind with a limited understanding of the interrelationships between gender and transport", according to Women and Transport in Indian cities, a policy brief by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and Safetipin, a map-based mobile personal safety app.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), transport is one of several sectors that has traditionally been regarded as having ‘no place for women’. The policy brief, while outlining the broad issues faced by women when accessing urban transport, recommends ways to enable equitable access. The brief recommends gender responsive indicators, and stresses that urban transport is not the responsibility of one ministry or department, but requires interventions at multiple scales and coordination with a number of ministries and departments.

As Sonal Shah, senior manager, ITDP India programme, says, “Ultimately, transportation is the fulcrum that allows women to participate in the workforce; a societal shift to transform the entire world economy."

Now that the brief is out after revisions following a round table discussion on Gender and Transit, organized by ITDP, Safetipin, UN Women with participation from 30 women’s groups, international organizations, professionals and academic institutions in June, Shah says the organization will be working with state and city governments towards adopting some of their recommendations.

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