It’s common to witness Dubai bashing in the international media but when one comes across a report like this in Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/britchick-paris/why-dubai-is-rapidly-beco_b_3156110.html#postComment
one is indeed pleasantly surprised.
More than anything else what struck me most in the article is the following paragraph:
Dubai allows you to be you. And controversially especially if you are a woman. I’m not the only woman to think that. I feel safer here in Dubai than I do in London or Paris. There is a healthy respect that means you are just left alone, so long as you in turn respect the local values and customs.
Also in Europe there is often an underlying chauvinism, that means that men can do it better, hence the paucity of women board members at big Western companies. Here from my experience and that of my entrepreneur friends, women in business are admired. I can hear all the cynics ready to wade in but I cannot refute the evidence I have from the last few weeks working here. It has been a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the openness and creativity that comes from a city that is exploding and growing at lightening speed. In ten years it has achieved what New York did in 150.
This egged me to write about what I know about the city living here for the last six years.
Ask any woman from any nationality if they feel safe living in or travelling to Dubai the answer will always be “yes” without a second thought.
Without any statistics at hand it might be a bit hard to explain why the answer is always so but I will try to do so with a few examples.
When I first moved to Dubai in 2007 my husband and I would go for after-dinner walks to the Dubai Creek which is 20 minutes from my home. One day while sitting there and enjoying the lovely view we never realized it was 1am. It was a weekday and the place was empty except for a few men sitting around here and there in twos and threes chatting amongst themselves.
I looked around and told my husband fearfully, “Do you think it’s safe to hang around here so late?”
He said, “Don’t worry, Dubai is totally safe for women. The longer you live here the better you will know.”
That’s when I spotted an abaya and sheyla-clad lady walking rigorously in her sneakers – all alone. Coming from India, where a woman’s safety is a perpetual concern, this was quite an impossible scenario for me. Six years down the line I have not yet experienced a lone walk at Dubai Creek at 1 am but I have comfortably walked alone at 12am to the 24X7 supermarket in my neighbourhood to fetch something, I have driven back home from the outskirts of the city at 2am after an office party taking a detour to drop a female friend on the way. I have hailed a cab post-midnight and reached home safe and sound lost in conversation with a friendly cabbie, and I have walked back home from a friend’s place all alone pretty late in the night.
In the neighbourhood where I live, it is not uncommon to see women coming back home from work really late, mixed or even all men’s groups sitting around and chatting in the cafés late in the night. Nobody will give you a second look, nobody will try to follow you, make passes at you, hassle you with lewd comments.
In India we are always looking over our shoulders, something we hardly have to do here. So when something happens in Dubai it always comes as a shock.
Does this mean crime against women does not exist in Dubai?
Not at all. With 120 nationalities living together in a metropolis it is inevitable crime will exist and one gets to read about sexual crimes against women in the newspapers often. Dubai is also fighting human trafficking and domestic violence is also one of the issues here. But one has to admit that the rate of crime is much lower in Dubai compared to other cities.
Then how is Dubai safe?
For me it is safe because every time I step out of my home I don’t have be constantly on my guard. I come from Kolkata where I am used to being groped, commented and stared at all the time. That way Dubai comes as a breath of fresh air for me. I can be myself, wear whatever clothes I want, not worry about attracting too much attention in my short skirt, go for after-dinner-walks at 11pm with my son and travel comfortably in public transport. And also, the same Indians who misbehave back home are civil here.
Police has a major role to play
The police here provides an amazing safety net for women by efficiently patrolling the city 24×7. Be sure to spot a Dubai Police patrol wherever you go. If a woman dials 999 for help they will be there in two minutes. And most importantly the Dubai police force command respect and fear among the people for their commitment. Unlike in India, where bribes can settle matters with the police, that is unthinkable here.
Another thing that keeps women in Dubai safe is the inevitability of punishment. There is no escaping that. A British woman was raped and kidnapped by three men last July. They were eventually caught and in eight months the verdict was out and they are now in jail. Justice is delivered quickly and efficiently.
Read her story here:
Recently an intoxicated Pakistani bus driver tried to rape an American lady tourist in an empty bus only to be beaten up by her. She escaped from the bus and reported the incident to the police. The man has been arrested and the court proceedings have already started. I will not be surprised if the case is settled quickly. Read about it here:
In this regard I would like to share an incident that put my friend in a tricky situation. This happened a few years back when she had just moved to Dubai alone. She and another friend were returning home late from a party when some men in a four-wheel started tailing them. They drove around town trying to shake them off but to no avail. Then after much deliberation they called the police. The officer on patrol duty immediately came to their rescue, did not ask them why they were out so late, escorted them home and needless to say, nabbed the men immediately.
My friends with teenage daughters growing up here say that they are less worried about them when they go out for their tuitions or to meet friends than they would have been had they been in India.
That day a friend asked, “What is it you will miss about Dubai when you move back to Kolkata?”
My instant reply was, “I will miss venturing out of my home, even at unearthly hours, without a care in the world.”
When I move back to Kolkata I guess I will have to sharpen my claws all over again.
(Photographs: Amrita Mukherjee)