In the month of March, a group of activists from the New Delhi-based feminist group Femi Kishore started the “Home for Women” initiative to open doors in women’s shelters across the city.
They had a tough job: The city has a population of just over 1.5 million, which means many shelters have no room for women.
“Many shelters have not enough space, and the men don’t care for women,” said Gopal Subramanian, founder of the group.
“We have to open the doors, to let them know we care.”
A few months later, they started a new project, called Home for Women, to open more women’s housing in Delhi.
The project has been a success.
But the problem has not gone away.
According to the Delhi Women’s Shelter Association, there are more than 1,200 shelters for women, but only 5% of them have rooms for women of colour.
“There is a problem of gender segregation and exclusion in our shelters,” said Prabhushan Bhattacharya, the association’s president.
“It is very difficult to find space for women who have been abused, who are women of color.”
Bhattasari said there are a lot of people in shelters who are not willing to open their doors.
“When we do try to open our doors, there is a lot more resistance than we expected,” she said.
A lot of women and girls are being raped in shelters, said Darshan Pankiwal, who heads the Delhi Human Rights Commission.
The problem is not confined to Delhi, either.
According the NGO Sisters In Disadvantage, the number of women raped and abused in shelters has increased by more than 80% in the past five years.
The number of sexual harassment cases filed by women has increased nearly four-fold since 2011, said Gita Bhattsari, the president of Sisters In Discipline.
In the last year alone, women in Delhi’s shelters have been raped and harassed at least five times.
Bhattesari and her partners are taking on the issue, trying to create a safe space for the women they work with.
They are looking for places for women to share their stories, like a library, a meeting place, or a community space, where they can talk about their lives.
There are many places in Delhi where they have found spaces for women and children, she said, and there are many more where they are waiting to open.
“The shelters are still very limited, but there is hope,” Bhatti said.
“One woman I spoke to said she had a lot to offer, and was looking forward to opening her own shelter.”
For more stories like this one, visit women-friendly.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.