With the rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad last week sparking another national-level debate on women’s safety, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has decided to allow women to carry pepper spray for self-defense.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, B L Yeshwanth Chavan, Chief PRO, BMRCL, confirmed that security staff across metro stations had been instructed to allow women with pepper spray to board trains from Monday.
“An instance from a station where security personnel did not allow a woman carrying pepper spray to board a train was brought to our notice recently. On account of this, we have issued a notification to our security staff to allow women to carry pepper sprays from now on,” he said.
He added that pepper sprays were never banned on the Namma Metro, but passengers would be enquired about why they were carrying it at most stations. “Whenever aerosol sprays were found by baggage scanners, security personnel were instructed to clarify with passengers why they were carrying those, and to make note of it for security purposes,” he said.
The issue had come to light after a public policy researcher took to Twitter to ask BMRCL officials why pepper sprays were confiscated. “Dear @cpronammametro, why is your security staff confiscating pepper sprays from women on a few stations? You can’t arbitrarily deny women access to a handy self-defense mechanism when they have to resort to other modes of transport as well to reach their destinations!” the tweet said.
Are these arbitrary decisions taken by security staff or is it a BMRCL rule? Will your staff take responsibility for the safety of women commuters when they make them exit the stations after disarming them with the one self-defense option they had at their disposal?
— Rakshith S Ponnathpur | ರಕ್ಷಿತ್ (@rsponnathpur) December 1, 2019
When asked about this, BMRCL officials clarified, “This was reported only from one metro station and it might have taken place due to some lack of communication among security personnel. The issue has been resolved now.”
Nupur Patny, a researcher working on It’s Not My Fault’, a project aimed at facilitating post-incidental support to sexual harassment victims in the city, said, “Women carry pepper spray for self-defense. Allowing them to carry pepper sprays in the metro will not cause any major threat to other passengers unless the women are troubled.”