Hyderabad: The safety of women in city buses is being compromised as men frequently sit even in the ladies section. Buses are the places where women become vulnerable to molestation and harassment due to its crowded nature and surprisingly there is no separate mechanism for these kinds of grievances it’s the She teams, that handles all these.
There has been Supreme Court directions in 2012 that, if any of these incidents take place, the bus driver has to take the bus to the nearest police station, however that is still a distant dream, as many won’t even bother, terming it as “common” and “time waste” to go to the police station.
When this correspondent travelled in a bus, it was observed that, though there is a partition, it is rarely respected. Mr Utlawar Prathiba, a regular bus traveller, said that it was a common sight to see men entering into the ladies section. This happens mostly when the bus is overcrowded. Sometimes when they get down from the front door, they rub against the women standing in the crowd. They also sit in the seats meant for ladies, and get up only when asked to do so.
She teams are handling these kinds of complaints by conducting decoy operations and taking offenders into custody then and there. She teams assistant commissioner of police C. Narmada said, “If we get complaints from certain areas then we conduct decoy operations and identify the stalkers. Awareness campaigns are also held for women regarding these kinds of instances.” In September alone, it has conducted around 96 decoy operations in most of the bus stops and other public spots. However, when it comes to complaints about their own staff on the lines of sexual harassment, RTC has acted swiftly in dealing with these complaints. They have received three complaints about their conductors, at Cantonment, Ranigunj and Bandlaguda, and three of them were suspended.
But, when a passenger commits any sexual offence, nothing is being done, though there are proper guidelines from the Supreme Court on the same issue. Mr. A. Sridhar, Deputy Chief Traffic manager from RTC, said, “There have been no instances recorded in the last couple of years, where a driver has to take the bus to the police station regarding the sexual offenders. We have given instructions and educated the drivers about the Supreme Court order as well and asked them to report it to the police on the spot or dial 100, but there have been no such incidents so far.”
Mrs P. Kanaka Durga mentioned that, “Whenever any such incident of molestation happens, nobody in the bus comes out to help you. We need to fight the battle alone. They will look at us, as if we are making a mountain out of molehill. Co-passengers support is also equally important in fighting these kinds of incidents.”
Ms Bhargavi Varsha, organiser for #iwillgoout campaign said that, “Many senior citizen men come and sit in the seats and they also take advantage of it and misbehave sometimes. Whenever any incident happens, it is always the women who has the fear and men roam free. There should be strict punishments given to these offenders who misbehave with women, they take advantage of the crowded space in the bus and start doing creepy things, and when caught they come with creative excuses.”
Experts say, whatever the complaints and cases are coming out, it’s still just scratching the surface.
“Cases of sexual harassment are coming into the light because we have a grievance system in place, and now with the MeToo explosive campaign, the perpetrators will be exposed more. But, it is important to note that, only 30 per cent of women bring the issue to light while 70 per cent of cases are buried, owing to lot of fears. Particularly in India, a female is looked upon as an accused, despite being the victim, and the women is questioned for her choice of clothes, behaviour, extrovert nature and judged on all moral grounds when she complains, thus women prefer not to report,” said Dr Purnima Nagaraja, Consultant Psychiatrist, Dhrithi.