Late-night security for women in apartments as per Karnataka law

Our cities haven’t been safe havens if numbers are to be believed, aside from numerous horror stories that surface about assaults against women. 

According to a UN survey, 95% of women in Delhi feel unsafe in public spaces. 

There is an average of 87 cases of rape daily and in 2019, crime against women increased by 7%. 

Bangalore is not unfamiliar with its own maladies of attacks on women, from the horrifying mass molestation case to the caught-on-camera-attack on a woman walking alone on a narrow lane.

Safety of women is a problem that can be especially tricky to solve when women are employed in night shifts or may have to work late or perhaps even travel often to the airport owing to work flights. The infamous case of Pratibha Srikanth Murthy, a 28-year-old BPO employee assaulted and killed by the perpetrator who posed as a driver is a gruesome reminder of how unsafe conditions can be for women working late nights. 

With respect to women working during the night, the Karnataka state government issued an amendment on October 19, 2020, to The Karnataka Shops And Commercial Establishments Act, 1961. The law came into being to remove the prohibition on women from gaining employment at night as it hampered their economic opportunities.

Highlights of the amendments made in Karnataka Shops And Commercial Establishments 2020

  • Women working in night shifts (between 7 pm and 6 am)should write a letter of consent stating they’re willing to work at night.
  • Companies should provide adequate security and transportation to such women free of cost with GPS tracking and monitoring of vehicles with a travel monitoring desk/station. 
  • Not less than ⅓ of the supervisor shift in charge or other supervisory staff shall be women during night shift. 
  • Appropriate medical facilities, rest rooms, canteen and necessary hygiene should be provided. 
  • Drivers employed by the companies are required to be screened prior to appointment with full bio data. 
  • The routes should be picked in a way that no woman employee should be picked up first or dropped last. 
  • The company should perform random checks on the vehicles on route.
  • Such companies, factories and establishments should also have CCTVs with proper lighting in and around the establishment. 

The law makes it mandatory for companies/factories and any other establishments to ensure protection and penalties against sexual harassment, lack of proper facilities and hygiene. 

The law also states that there should be a consecutive 12 hour rest between two shifts so that there’s enough rest. Even though this order came into being mainly for women employed in factories, it now uniformly applies to IT/ITES and all other sectors. The law also suggests for companies to create their own mobile applications to ensure that the women employees can contact someone for help when in distress.

How should societies ensure safety for women residents who may work late nights or in night shifts?

  • Any society has a number of single women, students, young working women living alone or with families, over and above the women tenants. The number of women who work night shifts per society may not always be excessively high but it’s paramount to ensure their safety by following strict protocols. 
  • When it comes to being compliant with the law and to ensure women’s safety, a residential society can take the following measures: 
  • Women working in night shifts should carry a rape whistle, pepper spray or a personal safety app available on the internet. Even if you don’t take the company transport and commute in your own vehicle, it’s a logical first step to ensure you have some help in case of any unwanted advances. 
  • The security guards should have a list of women residents who work night shifts and a list of designated drivers with their phone numbers and addresses. They should also be given a flashlight, whistle, baton, pepper spray and an emergency first aid box. 
  • If the vehicle cannot drop a woman resident all the way to the gate, the guard (or driver) should accompany her till she has safely entered the premises.
  • Keep security around entry and exit gates extra tight with flood lights and have motion detection CCTV cameras and lights installed in the main gates at least. This can alert the guards to any unauthorised entry or tailgating in the context of women residents entering or leaving the premises at late hours of the night. 
  • Instruct the guards to be on the lookout for any suspicious or unsavory behaviour from any regular or new drivers and to intervene when necessary. 
  • The security guards should be made to keep their mobiles charged at all times, in case if any women residents need emergency help. Woman can also use MyGate, a security and community management app that ensures instant help at the time of emergency. This feature allows create a single directory of all emergency contacts
  • If women residents are returning home late at night from the office and travelling in a rental cab and not the company car, they can call the guard in advance and let him know the estimated time to arrive. The guard should be made to understand that he should follow up with a call if the resident hasn’t arrived at around the expected time. 
  • Security patrol should be done outside the premises especially before and around the time of return of women working late at night so that anyone lurking around can be questioned or apprehended.
  • An intelligent society management app can be the perfect solution to women’s (and general) safety since it uses a secure passcode-based verification procedure for automated gatekeeping.

What do you think?