Of pink car parks and self-defence
pink car park

Please bear in mind that the single women parking spaces were not put there for petty reasons

pic credit: Midvalley.com.my

SOMETHING as simple as walking to her own car could send shivers down a woman’s spine, and not because of the potential annoying catcalling.

Recently, a woman, May Qi, shared on social media of a terrifying encounter with a man who tried to open the passenger door of her car at Mid Valley Megamall’s car park.

After realising that it was locked, he tried his luck with the rear door. By this time, May Qi had begun blaring her car horn.

When a security guard approached, the culprit, who wore a long scarf to cover his face, walked away as if nothing had happened, but the guard managed to stop him.

Mid Valley Megamall confirmed the incident, but sadly, after conducting a body search and having found no harmful object nor any identification card on him, the man was simply escorted out of the mall.

He could be, at this very moment, lurking in another mall’s car park looking for his next prey.

If May Qi had not locked her doors fast enough, she could have ended up being another Canny Ong.

Lest we forget, in June 2003, Ong was abducted from a basement car park of a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur before she was raped, stabbed, strangled, dumped in a manhole, and set on fire. Her assailant had acted alone.

This spurred shopping malls to allocate parking spaces for single women drivers which are closer to the entrance.

Some take the extra step of having this special parking space gated, where security guards will only give access to lone female drivers.

This latter initiative is important because often, the pink parking spots — which are meant to keep women safe — are being misused.

This writer is confident that readers have seen for themselves — cars with men, families, or a group, driving into and out of the female parking spaces.

These spaces are extremely limited and with selfish people wrongfully using them, women who are without companions have no choice but to park farther.

Please bear in mind that the single women parking spaces were not put there for petty reasons.

Women do not go to basement car parks to be pampered; they go to spas for that. The parking spaces were not painted pink just because it is pretty; it is to clearly indicate for whom those spaces are.

Neither is this the space to argue about gender equality. In his book “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence”, author and security specialist Gavin de Becker wrote: “It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different — men and women live in different worlds…at core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.”

There are pink parking spaces meant for just single female drivers in shopping malls because what happened to Ong was real.

We live in a world where women and young girls get sexually abused by their neighbours, brothers and fathers, where wives get strangled to death by their own husbands.

In this world, men have no right to feel insulted when a woman enters the elevator with a key between her fingers, curled into a fist. Or when they hear the doors lock as they walk past a car with a female occupant inside.

Instead, wonder if your mothers, sisters, wives and daughters feel the same fear, day and night.

As for women, always be vigilant. It does not matter how many self-defence videos you watched or how many bottles of pepper spray you have dangling on your keychain if you are not firstly mentally aware of your surroundings.

Female parking spaces do not guarantee your safety. May Qi was able to get the attention of the security by slamming on her car horn, but what if she was attacked while walking, maybe just some 100m to her car?

Ladies, go ahead and be brazen. Look at the people around you in the eyes, let them know that you are aware of their presence.

Put away your handphone for just a few minutes, as it is the easiest form of distraction that predators could take advantage of.

Criminals normally would not attack people who seem to be ready to fight back. They aim for people who are not paying attention to their surroundings.

These are not sure solutions to protecting ourselves against creeps, but they are among the many early steps that we can take. Being cautious is not being paranoid.

Always being on our guards may be exhausting at first, especially if we are not used to it, but hopefully with enough practice, it will become second nature or a muscle memory.

It is, after all, better than ending up in a ditch somewhere.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.