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This is no country for women

DC | SANGEETA BORA
Published Jan 17, 2014, 5:23 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 6:50 am IST
While a German was raped on a train in Chennai and a 51- year-old Danish tourist gangraped in Delhi recently.

Bangalore: While a German was raped on a train in Chennai and a 51- year-old Danish tourist gangraped in Delhi recently, women in Bangalore have little reason to feel safe either with many reporting harassment on the city’s buses, autos and trains.

Says Rani Shetty, co-coordinator of Vanita Sahayavani, “We frequently receive complaints of women being harassed on buses.  Male passengers may not get physical, but some do tease from a far. I have been speaking about harassment on buses in all my awareness campaigns. I tell women to use their presence of mind and complain to conductors, drivers and co-passengers.”

 

A regular commuter on BMTC buses, Anita (name changed), recounts that once a man was unzipping himself standing right before her, but when she brought it to the notice of the driver and conductor, she was simply ignored, clearly indicating the absence of strict guidelines on dealing with such matters and sensitisation of the bus crew.

But both the KSRTC and BMTC claim to have several measures in place to ensure the safety of women onboard their buses. N. Chengappa, chief traffic manager (operations), KSRTC, says 16 seats are reserved for women on buses and if a woman is harrassed, the driver is supposed to take the bus to the nearest police station to allow the police to investigate the matter. “If the man in question is drunk he is supposed to be referred to a medical officer,” he adds.

 

A similar procedure is followed by the BMTC, says C.G. Anand, its technical general manager. “We have surveillance cameras in place and seats reserved for women,” he says. But in practice the crew is often at a loss in dealing with such situations.

“We get very confused in such situations. We have not been given any clear directions on how to act. If we do take action we could be in a soup and if we don’t the passengers are offended. Some conductors who stuck their necks out in the past were suspended as the man in question was influential. And never have we been told to not allow drunk passengers on board,” admits a KSRTC bus conductor.

 

The scenario is no different on the Metro Rail and in autorickshaws. Only last October, a girl crying for help on the Metro Rail as she was being teased by some youth, was ignored by the security men. Women harassed while travelling in autos can hope for little help either from the law men, who dismiss it as of little consequence most times.

Next: ‘Transport dept must keep passengers safe’

‘Transport dept must keep passengers safe’

Well known lawyer and activist, Pramila Nesargi feels the government should take precautionary measures like installing CCTV cameras, buzzers or warning signals on public transport vehicles for the safety of women.

 

“They could also print the number of a women’s helpline or some other helpline  behind the ticket. This will deter male passengers from harassing women. Prevention is the best resort as once the crime is committed, the victim suffers a lot of trauma and may even be scared to board a bus or train again,” she says.

Ms Nikhita Swamy, an activist, who runs an NGO,  says awareness is key in controlling harassment of women. “We have decided to set up free legal aid services at major bus stands in the city under an ACP to help women who will no longer have to go to police stations as our volunteers will take the matter forward. We also need to correct the city’s policing.

 

A lot of money is being spent on one–day campaigns, when the police should be implementing the law on a daily basis. The media too can play an important role in creating awareness on such issues,” she believes.

Pointing out that the transport department is responsible for women’s safety on its buses, a woman lawyer says it should be held liable if they are harassed onboard these vehicles. “There is a policy in place and so it is their duty to provide a safe environment for their passengers,” she underlines.

Next: consider all aspects when dealing with women’s safety

 

consider all aspects when dealing with women’s safety

Dona Fernandes

Women’s safety is a much larger issue and installing CCTV cameras will not solve it. In fact, I feel these kinds of cases will surface more and more as the society is reacting to women’ s new found economic and social independence.

Look at the youth of today. Large sectors of them are unemployed and frustrated with the prevailing disparity. We should look at options to gainfully engage them. Moreover, the daily soaps on television too treat women very lightly, as if it is legitimate to pass comments on them. These serials are legitimising this sort of behaviour.

 

The issue of women’s safety should be looked at in its entirety as there is sexual harassment even at the level of judges. The need of the hour is to consider all aspects and not one factor alone. Besides, nowadays everyone feels it is easy to override the law. These are non-bailable offences and yet we see no action being taken. Those who do end up behind  bars should be sent to some sort of reform school and taught to respect women.

We should also start a movement to bring respect back for women and inculcate youth with values. We need several mechanisms, both short term as well as long term. People who commit such crimes should understand that we are just not objects of desire and pleasure. We are human beings with equal rights.

 

—The writer is director, Vimochana

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Location: Karnataka




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