Tuesday Aug 9, 2022
Tuesday Aug 9, 2022

Are women safe in public transportations?

Unsafe public transport limits women’s rights and freedoms as equal citizens by restricting their mobility.


Nepalnews
2022 Jul 06, 6:27, Kathmandu
A large number of women face harassment in public transports but are often silenced through fear, guilt and further victimization. Photo- Pinterest

Globally, real and perceived threats of violence against women in transport or in public, such as sexual harassment, is one of the biggest mobility barriers affecting women disproportionately. The lack of safe transport can translate into young girls missing schools, women apprehensive to work far away from home or even giving up their jobs, and being unable to access health and child care services.

According to the data presented by the Nepal Police, from 10 December 2020 to 13 January 2021, a total of 102 cases of harassment in public were registered to the Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari. Although such cases have been registered, many remain unknown and forgotten. Such incidents push women to find alternative ways to travel or avoid traveling on public transports altogether.

 However for most of the students and working women in Kathmandu, crowded buses and micros are the only means of transportation. “I personally don't feel that women are safe in public buses. In a crowded space there isn't much we can do. Once, when traveling in a crowded bus, I was pulled forcefully to make space for others. I was manhandled and tossed around as if I was an object. That made me extremely upset over the incident.” said Preeti Kariya, a student and everyday commuter.

Similarly, Shubhani Dabadi, another student, exclaimed disappointment and disgust over the behavior of men intentionally touching and rubbing against women.


Crowded buses and other transports provide a opportunity for perpetrators to violate women and young girls. Photo- Flickr
Crowded buses and other transports provide a opportunity for perpetrators to violate women and young girls. Photo- Flickr

According to UN Women, public transport is an essential enabler in accessing the public sphere, without which women may be kept away from all essential economic, social, and political activities. World Bank estimates, women use public transport more than men. However, traveling has been shown to have negative consequences like violence, sexual harassment. Women frequently experience various forms of verbal and non-verbal Gender based violence in public transportation in the form of groping, catcalls, inappropriate comments, assault, and even rape.

“While traveling, especially in micro, conductors themselves are the first abusers. They fill the space as if we are a herd of goats and when they try to make space for other commuters, they intentionally touch our shoulders or thighs. Also, in buses, men hover over girls in a pretense of holding onto the handles.” said Shreeyasi KC, student.

Victims often don't speak out in fear of being misunderstood, or feel guilty of creating tension and uneasiness in a public space. Although, there are a number of women, especially young girls, who have often vocalized their discomfort to travel in public transportation, which sadly, was ignored as mere overreaction. It has also been reported that a lot of the cases against the perpetrators do not get reported as women don’t want to get involved in the long process of police and court.


Women and young girls are often manhandled or touched inappropriately while in public space, causing unexplainable trauma to them. Photo- Pinterest
Women and young girls are often manhandled or touched inappropriately while in public space, causing unexplainable trauma to them. Photo- Pinterest

Mushkan Sthapit, a student said, “Once, when I was traveling, a man was behind me and tried to rub against me. At first I doubted myself, but then I realized that he was doing it intentionally and I couldn't sit quiet. I had an umbrella on me, and hit him hard with it. He left me alone then.” Sthapit further said that the incident left her reeling with intense fear and trauma.

According to the International Labor Organization, limited access to and safety of transportation is estimated to be the greatest obstacle to women’s participation in the labor market in developing countries, reducing their participation probability by 16.5%. Therefore, unsafe transports create a huge gap in the labor market between men and women, which directly affects the country and its economy.


Victims often don't speak out in fear of being misunderstood, or feel guilty of creating tension and uneasiness in a public space. Photo- Pinterest
Victims often don't speak out in fear of being misunderstood, or feel guilty of creating tension and uneasiness in a public space. Photo- Pinterest

“When I was just 14, and traveling with my friends to Patan, a man came and sat beside us. We made space for him. Although the bus was not crowded and had other unused seats, he came to sit beside me. I didn't think much of it until I felt a hand on my thighs, I froze. Slowly, his hands traveled upwards and I stood up with a jerk. I never traveled on public transports after that.” said Riya (pseudonym). She further added that it wasn't years until she finally told her mother, who told her to be careful and not make much fuss about it. She couldn't tell her father after that. “My mother avoided talking about it more than I did and I realized that most women do the same but it is extremely unhealthy. We must not self victimize ourselves in such a way,” Riya added.

The provision of reserved seats for women in public vehicles stated by the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act, 2049 BS (1993 AD), has to some extent safeguarded women and girls from facing harassment in public transport. But is that really enough?


READ ALSO:

Kathmandu Are women safe in public transportations? Mobility Unsafe public transport limits women’s rights freedoms as equal citizens harassment in public bus threats of violence against women in transport sexual harassment is one of the biggest mobility barriers
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