Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao ought to withdraw a statement he made in response to an uproar over the grisly gang-rape and murder of a 26-year old veterinarian in Hyderabad. Women employees of the state’s transport corporation, he reportedly said, should not be asked to work late shifts—after 8.30pm—for the sake of their safety. This may seem like an expression of concern, but the signal it sends to women is chilling. Instead of assuring their safety, his words suggest state helplessness over law and order. Worse, it indirectly shifts the burden of safety onto women, should they work late, and their employers.

Public spaces need to be safe, period. Any distinction of circumstances, be it by time or social setting, surrounding such violence only serves to cramp the freedom that is every citizen’s right. Cities, after all, have been envisioned as enclaves of liberation, of collaboration and ideas. But public spaces end up as the domain of men. This exclusivist culture needs to be challenged day in and day out. That rapists exist is a reality, no doubt. That they should not is the point, not what the vulnerable should do to stay out of harm’s way.

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