Leena Biswas is about to become one of your new favorite people. The Guardian recently did an article on the burgeoning activist movement Biswas has started on the streets of Delhi, India’s metropolitan capital. Not only is Biswas a female doctor in one of the most male dominated cities in the world, she drives a motorcycle. It is nothing short of a spectacle to see a woman driving a car in any Indian city, but seeing a woman on a motorcycle is like seeing the Loch Ness Monster. What started out as a rebellious hobby for Biswas has turned into a full blown political movement in Delhi’s cosmopolitan area focuses on addressing the issues of women’s safety in the public sphere. For many women, stepping foot into the public arena is dangerous at any time of day. Biswas started biking because she says that is a common way for women to get harassed on public streets in Delhi: by boys on motorbikes.
In November of last year, Biswas and hundreds of Delhi women participated in Breakthrough India’s first ever bike rally to combat violence against women on public streets and bring awareness to women’s public safety. The human rights NGO partnered with Bikerni, the first all female motorcycle collective, to challenge the city’s policies that while in theory were put in place to protect women on the streets, in actuality perpetuate double standards and hinder women’s mobility in the city.
Biswas’ story is so incredible because it is so seemingly non-extraordinary. In the western world, a woman on a motorcycle is pretty cool, but it is hardly revolutionary. The ability to move around in the public space under the full protection of the law is still a luxury in today’s world. For women in Delhi, Biswas is saying something that is so powerful in a staunchly patriarchal society: it’s okay for us as women to take up space, we don’t have to apologize for our existence.