Violence against women in Indian urban public spaces – Studying the impact and interconnectedness of socio-cultural gendered norms and urban infrastructure on women’s safety and mobility.

Authors: Ritwika Biswas*, Temple University
Topics: Urban Geography, Gender, Asia
Keywords: Women, urban public space, identity, violence, Intersectionality, accessibility, Infrastructure, India, global South, feminist geography, urban geography, urban planning.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The recent increase of violence against women in Indian city spaces has focused attention on sexual violence as an important factor affecting women’s access to urban public spaces. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the interconnectedness of urban infrastructure and different socio-cultural gendered norms and their relationship to women’s vulnerability to sexual violence and unequal access to public spaces of Kolkata, India. In doing so, this research also seeks to provide empirical evidence that documents how gender intersects with other forms of identity (religion, class, caste, age) and power to determine accessibility to urban public spaces; and what shapes women’s strategies to access public spaces, given the threat of male violence. Using mixed methods of data collection like in-depth interviewing, key informant interviewing, focus group discussions and visual methods, the study explores how urban infrastructural set up like the transportation system, sidewalks, placement of public toilets, street lighting, forms of surveillance ties into notions of safe and unsafe spaces, and affect women’s accessibility in the public spaces. By examining the issue from a postcolonial, feminist geographic perspective, the research aims to move beyond a primary focus on violence against women as limiting women’s mobility to analyze the interconnectedness among socio-cultural gendered norms and urban planning, that in the first-place leads to such violence and limited accessibility to urban public spaces. Drawing from postcolonial and intersectionality theories, the research will integrate a global South perspective, thereby broadening feminist theories of urban space and planning.

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