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Your Daily Read: Public Transportation and Women

My way or the roadways.

Is it enough to assign train compartments for women, or is a greater overhaul of the system necessary?

Delhi Metro

This recent article in by Ankita Rao struck a chord.

Ankita contends that by designating one compartment in the Delhi Metro as “women’s only”, we perpetuate the myth that men are not responsible for their actions, and also make the rest of the train less safe for women.

I think the compartment sends a misguided message to Delhi’s public: that women need to be separated from men to be safe, and that Indian men have no self control.

As someone who spent a lot of her younger days in Mumbai Locals, (and Delhi buses) we cannot agree more. There was the time we got into the Ladies Compartment very late in the night, and felt thoroughly uncomfortable as the only passenger ,while the comparatively more crowded ‘general’ compartment hummed along. Another hot summer evening was spent stuck in the Ladies’ Coupe’ of the Sleeper Class of a very crowded train from Delhi to Jamshedpur, with harried male passengers knocking at the door in aggravation every few minutes. Segregation doesn’t solve any of the larger issues at hand, and instead creates the misguided impression that women can only feel safe in the small spaces specifically designated for them.

Also, as Ankita points out- 25% of the passengers of the Delhi Metro are women, so designating one out of 8 compartments as Women’s Only doesn’t really solve anything except make it more difficult for the women who can’t make it to this designated space. Overall, a better approach may be to encourage women to reclaim all public spaces than to be shielded in specific areas

But encouraging women to remain on the periphery of public spaces, even if this motivation is self-induced, will only perpetuate what we see in cities like Delhi today: streets, trains and workplaces full of men. For me, that’s reason enough for women to enter any compartment of the metro and at any time—physically claiming a space that already belongs to us.

 Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to speak to some experts on making India’s cities more sustainable and safe, and it is worth reiterating some of their lessons for making public transportations and commutes easier for women:
  1. Well-lit subways and walkways and bus stations
  2. Better emergency response services
  3. ‘Request’ stops in buses and other last-mile transportation that allow women to alight near their homes and place of work
  4. Better planned cities where it is possible for women to have work and schools closer to their residences.
  5. Overall gender sensitisation to reduce instances of sexual harassment

While women-only subway cars may seem like an easy solution to end violence against women in public transportation, a better solution may be to make them a more integral part of all public spaces.

Read more here and here.
Photo Credit: Eric.Parker via Compfight cc

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