IIndian women form a considerable chunk of workforce in the country. They use public transportation to reach offices, colleges and other destinations. Public transportation offers a feasible and reasonable solution to travel-related woes. However, in an appalling revelation in a prominent Indian newspaper, we found that only 9% of urban Indian women felt safe in public transport (source). Let us try to understand the reasons and the ways by which we can make the situation better.
Women’s Safety in Public Transport: A Global Issue
Before comparing Indian public transport system with that of developed countries, let us accept the fact that women’s safety is a global concern. In almost every country, dedicated efforts have been taken, or are in the process, to make transport safer for women. The situation is different between developed nations and developing countries. In many countries, including India, public transport remains a concern for women, so much so that many women choose to work from home, or not at all.
In a study conducted in the US (source), our country ranked fourth among 15 national capitals (New Delhi) that had the most unsafe transport system. Colombia (Bogota), Mexico (Mexico City), and Peru (Lima) were steady at the top three positions. respectively. Indonesia (Jakarta) and Argentina (Buenos Aires) came at the fifth and sixth spots, respectively. The safest capital city in the study was New York, followed by Tokyo, Beijing, and London.
While we can say that India has earned the notorious reputation of being one of the most unsafe countries in the world, this is not without a valid reason. As long as our women continue to feel unsafe and threatened, we have no right to boast about our country’s economic growth.
What Makes Public Transport Unsafe for Women?
Ever since the infamous Nirbhaya case that happened inside a moving public bus in 2012, the credibility of public transport has been irreversibly tarnished. There are frequent cases of men groping women passengers, passing lewd remarks, eve teasing, and physically harassing women. Additionally, the absence of safety officers on long-distance public transport like trains and buses makes it difficult for women to travel alone.
The approach of bus stations and train stations, especially after dark, makes it difficult for women to take public transport at those hours. Most women choose to book a private cab from their origin to their destination instead of walking toward the nearest station. Also, the high frequency of rapes and sexual offences committed by taxi drivers has made many women skeptical about travelling in cabs alone, or with strangers.
There are several approaches for ensuring the safety of women passengers on public transport. Some of these are:
- Installing CCTV cameras and surveillance at metro stations, inside buses and trains etc.
- Reserving coaches in trains and metros for women passengers only.
- Deploying security guards and safety officers on public transport.
- Operating a fleet of buses, taxis, and auto rickshaws driven by females only.
- Installing GPS tracking system in public transport.
- Developing apps and software to send distress signal and inform the nearest police patrolling vehicle.
What Can We Do?
The government is adopting several measures to make women feel safe in public transport. However, we cannot ignore our social responsibilities. If you see someone harassing, attacking or molesting a woman , you should raise an alarm. Don’t let women feel alone while they travel. If travelling as a group where one of your friends starts misbehaving with a woman passenger, intervene. In such a scenario, you should ensure that the woman’s safety is not compromised. Make women around you aware of the safety and security apps that they can download and use.
Not Too Much to Ask For
Unfortunately, the worth of women is being taken lightly in our otherwise evolving world. Women form an almost equal part of the country’s economy and of mankind. We cannot boast of personal progress unless our society progresses, as a whole. Part of this progress will happen only when the women in our country feel safe, inside and outside their home. Public transport is an inevitable part of a person’s daily life. Why should women feel unsafe and threatened while using it?