Reserved seats and coaches are not a special indulgence towards women, they are an indication of a serious social problem.

I received an email about a young girl who faced sexual harassment from one man, and blame from more than fifty other male passengers because they resented her being in what they felt was their space. She was traveling in the general compartment of the Delhi Metro.

Reserved seats and coaches are not a special indulgence towards women, they are an indication of a serious social problem.

1. In many ways public transport and spaces in India seem to be reserved for men. Women’s use of public spaces is seen as a privilege, or even as an encroachment into men’s spaces.

Since many other basic human rights  depend on the direct use of public transport, this denial affects the entire society.

For example, many young girls are denied education because of fear of men’s behaviour in public spaces, if they are allowed education they are not allowed to travel too far from home. Working women face the same. (Leads to the thinking that it’s a man’s world). 

Since most women have fathers, brothers, children and loved ones who are non-women, it affects almost everybody.

2. Many Indian families don’t want female family members to interact with men, so again women are not allowed in what are seen as men’s spaces or ‘general public’s  spaces’.

Now segregation is unhealthy, and we must continue to work towards making general/public spaces available to all citizens. But none of this is possible without education and self reliance of more and more women.

Because only when women and their families feel the need for safe travel and use of public spaces (parks, roads, public transport, markets, malls and work places etc), can we expect the society to understand and get used to the idea that a ‘dereservation of public spaces ‘ is needed.

Until general/public spaces become safe enough for women, society and police to stop treating them as men’s spaces, women must have means to travel. ‘Reserving’ (or sort of dereserving) some seats or coaches for women is a small step in that direction. Do reserved seats and coaches mean the rest of the spaces are forbidden to women ?

Do you see ‘general compartments’ as spaces reserved for men? If yes, then in what ways does the society benefit from this?

Don’t you think women traveling safely in general compartments (whenever they can) would eventually get the general public get used to seeing them as a part of the population? And isn’t that the only way to ensure that eventually no ladies ‘ coaches are needed?

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93 thoughts on “Reserved seats and coaches are not a special indulgence towards women, they are an indication of a serious social problem.

  1. Don’t you think women traveling safely in general compartments (whenever they can) would eventually get the general public get used to seeing them as a part of the population?

    It will happen, but very very very long time……… a lot more which we cant see right now

      • They should but when generally you travel in general compartment, sometimes you are ignored (more if you look like you belong to the lower socio economic classes), sometimes people tell you to go to the ladies compartment, sometimes men stare at you, try to brush against you coz you are asking for it by coming to the genral compt., some are resentful and may complain among themselves loud enough for you to hear or among themselves, how women will not let men come into the ladies compartment but they will come into the general compartment, how unfair it is for them blah blah or if you are with a guy, nobody will say anything but they will assume that you are dating (if you look like you belong to the same age group) and may either be envious or look down upon you for doing things against our culture.

  2. True IHM! Generally men feel it’s unfair that women are given special quota.. They just fail to see why it is given in the first place!
    I have witnessed harassment too while traveling in public transport. Some men just cannot bear to see a women sitting in a non-reserved seat.

    I know it does not do any good in the long run, but I still think women’s reservation is needed in public transports, because traveling otherwise is plain torture! I still remember the zen feeling I experienced when I first travelled in an all women’s bus in Bangalore.. I felt so uninhibited that anybody could have pick-pocketed me that day.

    • As a man it’s difficult for me to understand how women feel. This kind of brings it home. That “uninhibited feeling” is something I experience all the time. I guess it never occurred to me that women have to think so much about their surroundings…

      Though reserved seats for women are not a long term solution, I guess we have to do something in the present to give women the peace of mind they are entitled to…

      Damn you India, when the hell are you going to grow up?

  3. I support reservations. People don’t get it that reservations are given due to SYSTEMIC oppression. Infact, I think there should be a small % of reservation for transgenders. Completely off the topic but needed to vent it out…

  4. I used to travel in general compartment of the local train in Mumbai when with male friends, and I don’t think anyone raised an eyebrow. But, at other times, I preferred to travel in ladies because I did not want to risk groping or being crushed against other male bodies during peak hours. It was a matter of convenience enabling more women to travel. Reserving means that you have exclusive right to that space as well as right to the other space as well. It is bizarre to think that women will not and cannot use other seats or coaches in public transport.

  5. Recently I walked to a railway station counter to get a platform ticket. They can be got from any counter and more importantly, you don’t have to stand in the queue either. When I approached the ticket window, a transcation had just ended and before I could ask for the platform ticket the next man in the queue stood in such a way that I couldn’t put my hand through the window. So he got his ticket and I waited. I could sense the hostility in the men standing inthe queue. They thought I was taking advantage of being a woman (we don’t have different queues for men and women here)
    A man standing in the queue tapped me on the shoulder from behind, with a newspaper and said that I couldn’t get in before them. I reminded him about there being no need for standing in the queue for a platform ticket. A few others joined him in his objection. They pointed to some queue where only women were standing (I don’t know what the queue was for) and said, if so I should go and get my ticket there.
    There are boards everywhere prominently displayed that one can get platform ticket at ALL counters and there was no need for queues. I realised that the men would not let me buy the ticket, they were sticking close together as if I was some queue-jumper.
    I loudly and cheerfully asked the man at the counter (in English): “Excuse me! Can I get a platform ticket here? Do I need to stand in the queue for that?”
    He answered “No!” and then the crowd went silent. He punched my ticket for me and not bothering to look at those in the queue, I walked away.
    It was not even a reservation thing, I was just following the usual procedure meant for all genders. But still because I was a lone woman, these group of men tried to gang up against me.

    • Bravo Shailji!! something similar happened to me at the Bank. Imagine my annoyance, when I went there to Draw my Hard earned money and then I have to put up with Male dominance over something they dont have a right over. The Man tried to cut the queue because I was respecting my onw personal space and that of the Man in front of me. And when I said its a queue he has to go back, he had the audacity to say “Theres space here, so just adjust” EXCUSE ME!!!! I Raised my voice a Few notches and said without any soft words that seem like requesting “I am in the queue, so go to the end of the queue”.. Yes, being women doesnt just mean watching where we go, being aware of our surroundings at all times but also how we say things.

    • Hmmm… I don’t know if I agree with this – queues in general are a nice orderly, first-come first-serve way of getting tickets instead of a free-for-all. It sounds like everyone else (men and women) were standing in queues to get tickets so technically you were queue-jumping…? Pointing you over to where some other women were standing was definitely wrong though.

      • @BBD-Lite, The railway rule says NOBODY has to wait in the queue for a platform ticket. I have already mentioned that boards to that effect were displayed prominently all over the place and above the counters. A man or woman can walk up to the counter and ask for a platform ticket. Now HOW is that queue jumping?!! This rule is in place for the benefit of the public (men and women) BY the railways themselves. Do you think the man at the counter would have punched the ticket for me if I had jumped the queue?!! I clearly wrote above that I ASKED whether one had to wait in the queue for a platform ticket (in spite of the fact that I KNEW and it was written right above the counter) and he answered that I did not have to.

        • There are plenty of instances where women break into the queues claiming that there are no separate queue for ladies. I am not sure you have not come across any of these situations (or not done it yourself for tickets other than platform ticket). You seem very predictably (not at all surprising) silent about those cases.

          Women in India are well known queue jumpers. You see them day in and day out. Even when there are husband / boyfriend / some other man accompanying them, still they prefer to get the ticket using the “ladies-quota” for the entire group. At that time they do not bother to think what the “ladies quota” is made for. Not a single woman is ever vocal about this in India. And it also speaks how much they respect themselves.

  6. I wish to tell you something about reservation for girls in educational institutes, you might say that its irrelevant here, but, the viewpoint matters and everything has its pros n cons..
    I come from an all girls college and I am a Mechanical engineer..
    Now, people have this misconception that Mechanical engineering is a branch that’s ‘meant for guys only’.. Its all because of my college that girls’ve started going for it, not only in my college, but in coed colleges as well..However, some families still prefer an all girls college for a branch like mechanical, because they know that in coed colleges, the ratio is like 1:60.. On one hand, its unfair that a rank 1 guy can’t get admission in the best college for its reserved for girls..but on the other hand, it helps to offer an opportunity to girls..

    Talking about metro.. Consider two reactions about the ladies coach..
    1. Achchha hai beta, ab tujhe bheed me nahi jana padega, comfortable hoga jana..
    2. Shukar hai, akeli ladki itne aadmiyon ke beech jati thi, ab safety bani rahegi..

    the 1st one is valid and understandable.. the second one.. NOT ACCEPTABLE

    I believe that ladies coach was a great step.. think about pregnant ladies and ladies with infants with them.. its ten times more comfortable n easier to travel in the ladies coach…but being a young girl, I have a choice..If I feel that its difficult to study in the ladies coach, I prefer to go in the general one..
    We must always have a choice.. and the mentality (like the 2nd reaction) is the only thing that does not give us the right to make choices completely and independently..And yes, as soon as people start thinking that girls can go for mechanical engineering in coed colleges, a girls college won’t be required.. and if they realize that general coaches are equally safe, ladies coach would be all about comfort, the word ‘safety’ would not be in picture..but as of now, let us make people understand that travelling in general coaches does not mean that you’re unsafe because of the male crowd..

    • in london, on the tube, a pregnant woman, disabled person – man or woman, and a person – man or woman, with a young child can ask for a person with none of these to give up his or her seat on the tube (metro).

      this can mean that if you were a disabled man or a man with a young chil, you could ask a woman who is not disabled or with a young child to give her seat up for you.

      is that not a more fair arrangement?

      • That is a fair arrangement in a country not full of parasites. You can not expect that in a country where an well educated girl, after her education does not feel it is now her duty to “Give back to the society”; instead, she decides to get marred and opt for “home making”, and blaming someone else for for not letting her joining the workforce of the country. To them a job is always a prize, not a responsibility, by not taking which they seem to have done a great favor to mankind. You can not expect a fair situation where, the women organizations, crying the entire sky down to get women’s rights, are absolutely (and predictably) silent about educated women opting for being home-makers (rather, they believe it is their right).
        In a country full of parasites, a democratic government will only mean a government BY the PARASITES, OF the PARASITES and FOR the PARASITES. This explains the reason for the government bring out the kind of rules they are bringing.

  7. What a pertinent post, IHM… As a woman who has faced unpleasant experiences in public buses, I feel much more comfortable traveling in ladies compartments. Fellow passengers are not of much help either, and the law is not always handy when you need it “here and now”. Until and unless mindsets change, the only solution may be to reserve…. which is rather unfortunate, but welcomed by many women who would rather not deal with fighting with unscrupulous harassers on an almost-daily basis.

    It will take a while for mindsets to change, but we, as the new generation, should teach our children to be better citizens. Its a start.

  8. Also, if at all, because of one or two incidents one feels unsafe, one must protest.. metro is always crowded and you can always seek help.. That would probably teach a lesson to some men, which is actually required..Thinking of travelling in the ladies coach and not going in the general coach just because you fear such things is totally an absurd idea..

  9. I use the Mumbai locals on a daily basis…

    A couple of things come to mind

    1. There are NOT ENOUGH coachs reserved for women..no seriously…while the general coaches are overflowing with men (no women goes into the general coaches as far as I now) the ladies coaches are still far too less

    2. The only times I have gone in general coaches are either when I am with spouse where he stands covering me from all sides (talk about being romantic!) with his hands practically ensuring no one else touches me, or when its been really really late in the night and I am travellling alone..then general coach with some men seems safer than a deserted ladies coach (now a days there are policemen, but I dont seem to trust them also too much :( )

    3. Despite of my spouse being with me when I was in a general coach, two times I have been harassed..not exactly harassed, one time some one squeezed my breasts so hard when we were getting off in the crowd that I cried out loudly but we couldnt figure out who it was..the second time, I had my two year old daughter in my hand, it was not too crowded and yet someone brushed my backside and squeezed it…both times the husband was there…

    What does this show? Do we need reservations…yes we do..at least in Bombay..is it fair to ask for reservations when we are harping so much about equality…yes it is, at least till people get their mentality in order…which I hope will happen in this lifetime!

    Once people stop troubling women, I think we wont need reservations anymore, till then, if anyone from the Bombay suburban railways reads IHM’s blog, please note that we need more ladies coaches here!

    • I completely agree with you R’s Mom.
      When I was 13, I travelled in a general compartment with my dad in a Mumbai local.What happened to me there, (despite my dad being with me), scared me off the general compartment for good. I do not wantto get into the horrible details, but it was something very bad and affected me badly.
      Now I travel only in the ladies compartment. I feel safer.
      Yes, ladies compartments are too few in Mumbai locals.

  10. Reserved coaches may be symptomatic of a problem, but it is not the solution. How long are we going to segregate men and women so that women can be safe? How long will parents think that one girl cannot study with 60 other boys? Fine , you go to an all girls school or travel in women’s coaches but you cannot escape men. They are a part of everyday life just like we are.

    I think more effort should be put into changing the mindset. Reservation is only a temporary fix. The more we reserve, the more we are feeding the idea that it is not OK for women to be in general spaces and they should be seen only in spaces ‘reserved’ for women. This is why we have public blaming the victim because she was in a bar. Because she was not ‘supposed’ to be there…it was not ‘reserved’ for her which meant that it was the sole right of men to occupy that space.

    Sure, it will make my travel easier now without being harassed or groped. But I will give that up in a blink if it means that my daughter never has to think about such things when her turn comes.

    • “Reserved coaches may be symptomatic of a problem, but it is not the solution. How long are we going to segregate men and women so that women can be safe?”
      Completely agree with this. Reserved public spaces for women, kept seperate from the spaces for men simply reinforces the kind of gender segregated and sexist mentality that prevades the mainland Indian cultures. Segregation just to avoid discrimination or harassment creates further ‘othering’ of the people involved and is simply a symptomatic treatment of what is a greater social problem. It is a form of submission to the status quo, rather than defying it.

    • There are also mindset change required on the women’s side. In Delhi Metro, there are everyday instances when the front coach is half empty, and there are women (even who are traveling alone) occupying general seats in the very next compartment, while men are standing. In this forum, no woman seem to have any problem with that. When the reserved coach was introduced, the number of reserved coaches had been decided on the basis of number of men to women passengers. Still women passengers found it inconvenient to walk down to the front coach. Had they behaved rationally at that time, that would have been called self-dignity (they can look at the meaning of the phrase in the dictionary). It is self dignity that earns respect to a community, not the brute force that Delhi Metro Authority is exercising now. Hope that Delhi women will know the meaning of the above phrase after a million years from now.

  11. I travel by the Mumbai trains every day.And my say is similar to R’s Mom.

    I can’t even dare to board general compartment in peak time (Morning and evening office time.). It’s not the case that I can’t manage to get in but it’s because I can’t even imagine the state of my mind after getting down.

    We used to run to get a ladies bus (Bus reserved only for women) to Andheri, so that at least I can stand comfortably without thinking much about my body posture, whether my dupatta is at proper place and we don’t have to be alert all the time about anybody is trying to lean on us or bush against us.

    I heard about this seat reservation system in best buses when I was in school and at I was totally against it thinking that why we women need special treatment. But after I started to travel by bus, I realized that it’s required till the time male specie learns to respect women.

  12. Women in India are better off having their own space in a bus or a train until the Indian man learns to keep his hands and other body parts to himself. I think women’s coaches and women’s special buses create an island of safety for women during the busier times of the day. But being in the general coach is better than being alone in the ladies coach during non peak hours.

    On another note, I just want to offer a shout out and a hundred salaams to the spirit and strength of the Indian woman, who rises like a phoenix everyday, despite so many obstacles and roadblocks in her path.

    Good night folks!

    • The indian man will not learn that lesson, if women are hid away in some other compartment. Instead he will learn it when we are no longer silent. When those of us who find harassment and groping unacceptible speak out whenever we notice it.

      I don’t think more segregation can solve the problem of sexism. If it could, there would be no sexism in places that have a huge amount of segregation, like in Saudi Arabia. But in actual fact, those places have *more* sexism, not less.

    • Spare a moment for the Indian man too. Those who jumped into the line of fire on 26/11 were MEN. Do you know how cold it is in Siachen? MEN stand on those borders and protect us from Pakistan. Do you remember the 1999 Kargil war and the recapture of Tiger hill? Indian MEN did it. Indian MEN walk the landmine filled forests of Jharkhand, for the safety of us all.

      Take a moment to think about the several million Indian men who live in the gutters of Dubai so they can save every penny and send it to their wives back home in India.

      Bottomline is: If you think my 67 year old arthritis patient father should jostle for air in a general compartment while some 18 year old girl sits comfortably and checks facebook in an empty ladies compartment, your belief system SUCKS.

      • @AB, thanks for the senti lecture. No one is saying men deserve to jostle for air and women deserve a sear. The whole point is that women would not need special reserved coaches in India if there wasn’t an ever present threat of molestation and sexual assault in ALL public places in India. Take it from someone who has had this experience in various degrees (from ‘rubbing up’ to bottom pinching) in Indian public transport.

        My 20 year old sister has also told me about how when she is sitting in the empty ladies compartment, some men in the next compartment look at her very VERY threateningly and try to approach closer. She is thankful when there are cops in her compartment and otherwise has no choice but to hope for more women to board the train at the next stop. Do you know what it is like to live with that threat every time you leave the house?

        I much prefer the London tube without any reserved coaches, even if there is only standing space at rush hour and everyone is squished up. I feel safe standing there because the men around me don’t try to feel me up or threaten me. Sure, sometimes the reserved coaches mean women get a seat when men’s coaches are full.. but mostly it’s a sign of our social problems, not of any female privilege.

        • @carvaka I was responding to a comment that said: “On another note, I just want to offer a shout out and a hundred salaams to the spirit and strength of the Indian woman, who rises like a phoenix everyday, despite so many obstacles and roadblocks in her path.”

          Thats not senti?

          There is also an “ever present threat” of terrorist attacks by jihadis at all places in India. Why not have special entry clearance lines for certain religion at the Metro, at the airport, at major hotels like Taj etc? You may have heard of the 26/11 terrorist attacks… or the Mumbai suburban railway attack in 2006. I am sure Mumbai commuters would feel a lot safer if commuters following certain faiths were singled out and made to pass through special security checks.

          I am sure London commuters would also feel safer if brown people were made to pass through special security checks. In fact, how about some “whites only” trains and buses in London? I bet Londoners would feel safer…

          To treat an entire class of human beings as potential criminals is undemocratic.

        • Are all Indian men subjected to security checks and controls as potential rapists? It’s the victims who are being given the option of travelling in limited but comparative safety.

  13. I can vouch my life on this, even when that happens and the day comes to get rid of special coaches or reservation etc there will be Millions who will say it is wrong.

    It a case of catch 22 either way will be a problem , people say one thing today many of the same will say the opposite then…

    This has given me a idea if I write here it will become a post..

    • No its not a bad idea but then hopefully god willing we wont need the reservation as other HUMAN beings around them will be caring enough to look after them ..

      I used the word human, because if you see a pregnent woman or a sick woman standing , then its not just men who are selfish and NOT give their seat its OTHER ABLE woman too who are sitting who dont bother offering their seat to them .. thats is why I said OTHER human beings .. because Till we keep this man-woman divide and keep looking at things with MEN-WOMEN view things wont change .. and that too I can vouch my life upon..

      • In fact, in Delhi Metro, you will find women offering seats to the senior citizens, even when those women are sitting in the seats reserved for senior citizens. These group of women also occupy general seats when the ladies seats are empty, and will have a thousand reasons to justify their doing so. Self-respect can not be taught to someone, my friend.

  14. I have always felt that seats shud be reserved for pregnant ladies, people with infants (men n women), oldies, disabled & sick ones (of course the setback is ppl can pretend to be ill juz to get a seat :D). Do the rest of us realli need resrvations? But in train its fun to travel in ladies comprtment… women are so friendly n uninhibited (as per my experience)and I always enjoy the gup-shup with those strangers-cum-familiar faces… I dont thnk reservation for women is a solution, its jus avoiding problem (not unlike ‘dressing modestly to avoid unwanted attention’)

    • Some women are saying that they enjoy their privacy in a “women only” coach. I fail to understand how justified is to offer some group of passengers “privacy” in a public transport. In the same logic, why should the men also not qualify for their privacy in the general compartment? Why should “able women”, not walk down to the front compartment when there are seats there? Why should women occupy general seats (in general compartments) when the ladies seats are vacant? And why should not a single woman ever protest against this?

  15. When the earth stops spinning and the sun turns to ice, we can do away with reservations.

    In the compartment where this woman was harasssed, only ONE man supported her. What would have happened if just five others had spoken? No need for any physcial action, just shouted at the guy from where they were seated? This guy would have slunk away. It would have sent a strong message to wannabe harassers – that the public might turn against them if they act dirty. But that did not happen – everyone turned against HER. And that means 99% of the public believes SHE DESERVED it.

    I’ve reached the conclusion that NOTHING can change, not in a million years. Sorry to sound so crude but as long as they have d**ks and we have breasts, the harassment will never stop. THe only way women can go about their business safely is sadly by segregation.

    • “I’ve reached the conclusion that NOTHING can change, not in a million years. Sorry to sound so crude but as long as they have d**ks and we have breasts, the harassment will never stop. THe only way women can go about their business safely is sadly by segregation.”

      It’s not the d**ks and the breasts that are the issue, it’s the brain that has the problem. Harassment is systematically supported by many aspects of Indian culture. Women are not seen as equal citizens, men are seen as having power, class stratification is rampant, sexuality of all citizens is repressed. Men are encouraged to view any woman who isn’t submissive as a whore, and no one is encouraged to explore their sexuality before marriage. It’s no wonder that this kind of stuff happens there.

      Here, in a populous city such as New York, the subway and bus gets incredibly crowded, yet we do not segregate people by gender. And an auto message always plays on the train: ” A crowded subway is not an excuse for sexual harassment. Please report any incidents to the authorities.” Sexual harassment is not supported in any way.

      It is not expected that a woman will get groped on the train. And here, if that does happen, you best believe the woman will try to strike back. If anyone grabbed my breast, or butt, he better be prepared for my swift kick to places where the sun does not shine.

      • American Woman – exactly what I said – I only used words that are at the level of these creeps; while you wrote it in a better way. What makes a guy lean over a woman in a relatively empty compartment? Why does he do it? Why does he feel no shame in rubbing his crotch against a woman IN FULL VIEW of the public? Why does everyone always blame the victim?

        You know this is not some ‘new’ incident. This has continued for eons and it will continue for eons. Why? Because India has always blamed its victims, and has always sought to control the lifestyle of its women based on the criminal behaviour of men. NEVER has there been an incident where MEN were punished for their sick behaviour.

    • Sumana, would you believe me if I told you that most women react exactly the same way as men when they see another woman being harassed? I suppose they might feel differently about it, but their reaction – or the lack thereof – is pretty much the same.

      The victim-blaming plays a part, but the real reason, in my opinion, is that sexual harassment (or as Indians like to call it, ‘eve-teasing’) has been normalized in the Indian public space to an extent that people don’t even flinch when they see it. It’s as normal as watering a plant. No one reports it. No one is upset by it (apart from the victim, perhaps). No one gives a flying fig about it. It’s like women are fair game. A lot of people don’t even know it’s a crime.

      I can understand the cynicism, but I’m not sure I agree with it. Whatever this place is, it isn’t my grandmother’s India . And my granddaughter’s India sure won’t be the same as my own. Guess it sounds cliched, but change really is the only constant. “We are like this only” is just not acceptable.

      • PT – The same problems existed before, the same continue even today. I am not a cynical person by any measure; but in this case, I don’t believe there is going to be a change anytime in the near future. And this is not a statement that accepts a situation in a ‘we are like this only’ way – it is a statement of deep shame and desperation.

        What we are discussing here is just ONE incident – this happens day in and day out in all villages/cities/towns in every street of India.

    • There are fewer boors in my generation, and hopefully WE’LL teach our kids to be better cultured ( yes, I used the C word in a totally different context) than the current generation of Indian Men without their misogyny, self-entitlement, or regressive beliefs.

      You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one! :)

      • Nope Thumbelina, you arent the only one with that dream…You have company. It takes effort on the side of the present day adults in India and in Indian Diaspora outside the country to get out of the indoctrination/conditioning of accepting things that are wrong. It will take effort in Parenting to see that the child we rear understands what respecting another person means and what unacceptable behaviour is. Hopefully we will rear them with critical thinking skills coupled with good character too.

      • “There are fewer boors in my generation, and hopefully WE’LL teach our kids to be better cultured”

        That’s what i thought too 30 years back, Frankly speaking I have found no change in the number of boors in the present.

    • I felt like you when I lived in that situation day in, day out…Living outside the country gave me time to think about it without being involved in it. We tend to see better when we get away cause we can take into account all those facts that we cant see when we are up close and personal. My conclusion, it can change…but it requires radical changes in law enforcement/implementation, it requires an environment that is conducive to Ethical people, it requires a change in how society sees a person(not gender/caste/money/education/age based), it requires women to use their voices, build their courage and it requires the men(especially the men closest to her in her everyday life, like her father, brother, husband, employer, collegue) to look upon women as an individual of their own right, not through lip service but with actions that speak loud. We can have a happier, free from fear existence, if the above conditions are satisfied. It will happen, it can happen, we can make it happen individually in our lives. I have seen it in existence outside India and within certain communities in India, so I know its possible.

      • Mysoul yes, I live outside the country, and I’ve never had to look over my shoulder while travelling/walking/running. Yes, change is very much possible – change is always possible. But the big question is – is there a WILL to change?

        • Agree Sumana.
          There is no segregation in any public transport in London, Amsterdam, Brussels,..
          Someone above commented that this will happen as long as men and women have certain body parts. Err..don’t folks in these cities have similar anatomy? Then how is it that they are not jumping at the first woman they see?

        • N – I mentioned the phrase in the INDIAN context – i repeat IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT. In INDIA there is something extremely, extremely wrong fundamentally because it appears that men feel superior, not because of some super intelligence or super creativity – but simply because of their anatomy. They don’t feel any shame in unzipping and urinating in public. They see a woman – and they take ‘time out’ to ‘have a go’ and rub against her, grope her. It’s become a relflex reaction you could say.

          In the countries you mentioned and the country where I’m staying – the way parenting is handling is starkly different from the way SONS are brought up in India. No little boy in these countries is made to feel superior JUST BECAUSE he is of a particular gender. Sex education starts at an early age. Access to the law is easy, reliable and swift in cases of sexual harassment. More importantly, the civic sense is very high – no one will tolerate nuisance in public quietly.

  16. I am principally against reservations of any kind. I think it serves as a big excuse against change.

    Frankly I do prefer to take the ladies compartment myself. It is a lot less crowded and yeah lot less trouble. But I sometimes feel its pathetic excuse for our society to not change how women are treated. A pathetic excuse against good manners.

    I agree reservation is mainly intended to undo years of oppression but what good has it really done us? Have people started respecting women, are women any safer..

    Another problem we face despite reserved compartments: In Chennai suburban train for example, lot of my female co-workers travel in ladies compartment. It is good and safe yes. But when these girls step outside the train they drape a dupatta, bring out their umbrella and walk real fast. Know why? Apparently, the short walk to the subway and out of it to the main road is the worst bit of their journey (groping, butt pinching etc ).

    Maybe if we did not have reservation we would face more harassment at public spaces, but maybe it also means we are more likely to want to stand up against it. And maybe maybe that would mean beginning of a change.. a change that reservation has failed to bring about.

  17. In theory I agree that reservation of compartments and seats for women is not a real solution and just serves to compound the existing gender segregation of sexes in Indian society.

    In practice , however, I use the reserved seats and compartments- because it’s human nature to avoid unpleasant and threatening situations.
    And lets face it, there are plenty of other ‘unreserved’ spaces – where I could still be groped and pinched (and where I can make my women don’t deserve this stand)- so when the option exists to get a breather from the constant-being-on-guard, I’d rather take it. The easy way out.
    BECAUSE ,as numerous incidents have taught me, since I was a child infact- where Indian men are concerned its better to be safe than sorry.

    (I know it sounds harsh, but I ve travelled in jam-packed compartments with in the UK and although I was squashed up I never felt uncomfortable/got my guard up!)

    • I recently travelled alone in jam-packed trains/buses in the UK/Europe with my two daughters. Felt 100% comfortable.
      Would take a lot to make me do the same in India.

      • Will anyone in this thread, ever utter, that when the reserved coach is empty, at the cost of crowding the other coaches, it is also a “RESPONSIBILITY” to board that coach first?

  18. I think that reserved seats are necessary because men are pretty good at grabbing seats and also women are not able to struggle and grab a seat of their own which is because they don’t tend to be physically aggressive. I cannot imagine how our nation can progress if half of the population is simply too meek to do something decisive consistently. But again I reiterate that this is not due to our culture and has got to do with favorable circumstances which the culprits exploit perfectly to their advantage. Some of the favorable circumstances are

    1)The absence of proper security arrangements across various public spaces.
    2)Poor lighting in train compartments.
    3)The unwillingness of victims to report the harassment.
    4)The loopholes in our judiciary which make sure that the culprit can get away with his misconduct if he tries hard enough.
    5)The side effects of a long working day which make it practically impossible for a co passenger to react to a case of harassment by a comparatively more active culprit.
    6)The safety first attitude of some of the passengers which can restrain them from standing up against the culprit who supposedly doesn’t hesitate in harming the reactor as well.

    These are some of the favorable circumstances that a culprit exploits and which can hinder safe interaction between men and women, I think that if we concentrate on these sort of weaknesses in public places more often, India can be a much healthier place for weak people

    • I’m sorry if I sound rude, but I really felt the need to tell you that your hideous sexism is matched only by your determination to close your eyes to real problems.

      No doubt, law enforcement can do a lot to make public places safer and more comfortable for women. This does not mean that the crime itself has nothing to do with our culture.

      India is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous places in the world for women. Ask yourself why that is.

      Your generalizations about women smack of a massive lack of actual experience interacting with them. These statements are typical of someone talking through their hat, someone who is just regurgitating cultural stereotypes, someone who has no conception of what real life is like. We’ve all heard them again and again, and let me tell you, this is exactly the kind of mindset which sustains the diseased atmosphere of misogyny in this country. Get rid of that mindset. You’ll be happier for it, and you’ll be doing the world some good.

      • I think you are mistaken.Men don’t think its right to harass women but that its safe to. And this is the difference between the accusations hurled towards our culture and circumstantial approval that harassers salivate at. I am not sure if you were the one who claimed that men think its right and justified to harass women but it was someone of your kind. People rant that western morals can do us good but if i am not mistaken railways,buses and working women are mostly found in cities and cities have been the biggest victims of western agents, so obviously cities should have been safer as compared to other parts, but sadly it is not so and therefore i don’t think it has anything to do with our culture. If western morals can facilitate safe locomotion for women then cities must have been the biggest benefactors, but why haven’t they been? Is it because they are too ignorant of the ground reality and engrossed in brainwashing Indian people?

        • For the 1000th time, in cities like London and NY and Amsterdam and many more, women do not get groped.
          Last time I checked, these cities were in the West.

      • I think you are mistaken.Men don’t think its right to harass women but that its safe to. And this is the difference between the accusations hurled towards our culture and circumstantial approval that harassers salivate at

        Yeah, really?

        Perhaps Why do they think it’s safe? Is it because of poor lighting? If so, then why does it also happen in broad daylight in crowded compartments?

        They think it’s safe because the majority does not care, and a substantial minority believes it’s a perfectly natural thing to do for a man.

        I am not sure if you were the one who claimed that men think its right and justified to harass women but it was someone of your kind.

        What is my ‘kind’? Do you know me? Do you know the first thing about where I’m coming from? Or are you just making sweeping assumptions again?

        People rant that western morals can do us good but if i am not mistaken railways,buses and working women are mostly found in cities and cities have been the biggest victims of western agents, so obviously cities should have been safer as compared to other parts, but sadly it is not so and therefore i don’t think it has anything to do with our culture. If western morals can facilitate safe locomotion for women then cities must have been the biggest benefactors, but why haven’t they been? Is it because they are too ignorant of the ground reality and engrossed in brainwashing Indian people?

        I’ll point that western nations have provided harassment free transport to men and women alike for decades now.

        You have stated that culture has nothing to do with harassment. Well, you can’t have it both ways.

        The people who populate ‘westernized’ cities in India are Indians, who largely follow so-called Indian morals. Either culture does have something to do with harassment, in which case you must agree that Indians with Indian morals in Indian cities are mostly at fault here, OR culture has nothing to do with harassment, in which case, you’ve written a full paragraph of irrelevant dribble.

        In any event, I’m not responsible for what ‘people’ said to you. I didn’t rant about anything of the sort – indeed, I don’t even believe in such clearly demarcated moral systems. If you have an issue with what *I* said, do tell me. If you have an issue with what *people* rant about, it’s not my problem. Can’t help you with that.

    • Subhosh, I don’t think its fair or correct to squarely place the blame on the meekness of half the population or on ‘favourable circumstances’. The problem is with the mindset of men who think its alright to harass women. Men who do not have that mindset will not harass irrespective of how ‘favourable’ the circumstances are.

    • And I find the use of the term ‘weak people’ absolutely obnoxious. Unless of course you’re using it to describe the sick men who harass women.

    • Sorry, but I’ve got to call you out on this. I’ve never taken public transport in India, but your ending note, ” I think that if we concentrate on these sort of weaknesses in public places more often, India can be a much healthier place for weak people” makes no sense.

      So are you saying you view Indian women as weak? I don’t think Indian weak. I just think they have been conditioned to be meek and mostly submissive.

      Big difference between weak and meek. Any woman is capable of kicking a guy in the balls, which is what he would deserve for grabbing someone.

      And what’s up with calling sexual harassment “eve teasing” just the language alone is an issue. Teasing is a joke. Teasing is something you do with a friend. Sexual harassment is not teasing. It’s a crime.

  19. blame the indian male.. I have travelled in many many places int his world in many a crowded trains and subway’s and have been groped in only 2 places, india and egypt. let’s leave egypt alone since it’s not my country, why do indian men feel the need to touch women? I ask this question of all indian men. event he ones who DON’T to shed some light if they can.
    i have travelled squashed up in NY subway and not ONE single groping hand, no one bumped me either and in case they did because the train stopped suddenly i got a hundered ‘ I’m very sorry’s ‘ and a NO repeat.
    i go in indian trains,buses or even walk in some crowded place, shop in a crowded store ( an dunfortunately with out teeming population we can’t avoid the crowds) i get pinched, felt and groped.

    so after so many decades on this planet i am convinced most of the indian population ( a higher proportion than the rest of the world) are perverted and jerks. they get their pleasure by feeling up strange women and i assume such behavior is encouraged by their peers. why else would they do it.

    I hope to god we don’t get rid of the women’s reservation system or as i call it , travel protection system for women. since it is quite firmly established that we as indian don’t seem to be able to chastise our men so might as well give our women some semblance of protection.

    When people from outside ask me i tell them openly to be careful, since indian men can’t seem to control their urges . yes it paints our men in bad light – even the good ones ( of which there are plenty but that’s the way it is.. .

    another fact i don’t see changing in my lifetime. let’s hope our sons imbibe some of what we teach and maybe the next gen has some hope ( generally i don’t think we do but hey miracles happen)

  20. to add, if I had a daughter i’d give her some sharp pins to mercilessly stab the roving hands, i have cloddied quite a few during my time in public transport and have stepped with heels on many a feet and caused bodily harm… wrong? yes . i’m no one to punsih but when my space is violated i respond and just like indian males have uncontrollable urge to touch, i have an uncontrollable urge to draw blood…meh..

  21. This might seem like a classic catch-22, but it isn’t, really.

    Women don’t need special coaches. Women need protection from harassment. Big difference there.

    In most aspects of life, we do not protect people from harassment by hiding them away in segregated areas. We do it by enforcing basic rights more efficiently. A separate coach might feel like heaven when you use it, but so does a cocaine high – feels good, but it’s very bad for you in the long run.

    I’ve associated with law enforcement officials at different levels over decades now, both in India and abroad, and I’ve long since come to the conclusion that Indian LEAs see segregation as an easy way out. That solution is a very simple one for them – give women a separate coach, and voila! No need to police a male population that is far too used to encroach upon the personal spaces of the opposite sex. Sure, it indicates a serious issue with society, but in the short-term at least, I see it as more of a law enforcement issue than a sociological issue. Harassing a woman is a crime, the police would do bloody well to enforce it.

    It is completely shameful that a nation which aspires to call itself a superpower cannot, in the 21st century protect its citizens from very basic, and very avoidable assaults at their dignity. Best practices for avoiding public harassment are well established in law-enforcement practice, but India, unfortunately, doesn’t have the will or manpower to implement them. Let me say this now: This is NOT a difficult problem for a determined legal system.
    Resorting to separate coaches may work for now, but it makes a bad situation worse. It places the blame on women’s shoulders. It makes them disappear from the public space. It’s little more than a snort of cocaine for society – makes you happy for a while, but at what cost?

    • oh we have the manpower, we don’t have the will. i repeat our men cannot containtheir urges, so no matter how great our legal system and police force the enforcement of good behavior partially lies in men’s hands. so ergo no solution.

      if we take away women’s coaches in trains then there will be the usual harasement, pinching,groping and 50% of the women will try to fight back and the rest will walk away ashamed and hurt. but i don’t see any change coming.

      e.g when i was in college , this guy would sit on a bike roadside w/ friends and tease, whistle and sometime drive by to give our dupattas a tug or a slap on our butts , after a few yelling we gave him we actually dragged him to a police station to report harasement ( and got a lecture about docile indian girls mind you and a snide smile from the policewallah) what do you think happened.. NOTHING!!! sure he didn’t touch me again , but whistles continued, he continued harassing the other girls too shy to complain….
      I saw this fellow many yrs alater at a temple with his family and pointed him to my husband and loudly listed his misdeeds and even declared my sympathy for his wife– imagine married to a pervert … but what happened, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. his wife felt bad and they walked away and the rest forgot it soon enough. his aged mom actually had the gall to come and chastise me about my words and said ‘ you have 2 boys let’s see how they behave when they are students — boys will be boys who knows how you behaved’ !!!!!!!!!!! i had to tell her that whatever happened i would not have her reaction if my son’s behaved the way her son did…

      well if we take away reservation in transport ( atleast( for women .. these fights etc., will be daily tamasha of travel.

      nope sorry can’t see any change in indian men. sadly i don’t have the faintest clue how to fix this urge to harass.. maybe you youngsters will come up with something, my aged brain can’t think beyong raising my son’s right- that’s about all i can do.

      • We DON’T have the manpower. Not sure if you know this already, but India has a very small police force for its population size. Police stations are chronically overworked and understaffed, the force itself is top-heavy and completely under-trained for the most part, and when all of that happens, compromises are bound to happen.

        If you can’t see the change, do try traveling on a domestic flight. Maybe you already have. Same nationality, very different behavior. It’s all about what environment you create, what rules you establish and the amount of tolerance that is demonstrated.

        The standard principle of stopping harassment is reaction. If you harass somebody, there must be some reaction. It may come from the victim, from the public, from law enforcement, whatever. If there’s no reaction, harassment flourishes. This applies to all kinds of violation, from public harassment to workplace harassment. Some kind of punitive justice must be administered to create deterrence,

        I don’t agree with this attitude that the country can’t change, that nothing can be done. That’s defeatist rubbish and it doesn’t help. This country can change, and it jolly well will. Make no mistake, people WILL learn to respect other peoples’ rights if they are made to.

        Also, a bit off-topic here, but you just made my day by calling me a youngster. Don’t get to hear that everyday, you know. Going to be in a really good mood today. :D

        • I love your arguments and your enthusiasm and I hope change comes and I do my part :-). You sounded like my sons and hence I tought you were an youngster. Glad I made your day. We need more like you. When I say we have manpower I mean we don’t lack bodies to recruit and train. With our population we should be able to get more police, but they are also stuck in the same mindset.
          I agree that culprits should be punished but for that it has to be recognized as an of fence first not harmless boys will be boys fun.

          I also don’t think it might change in my lifetime. Maybe in my kids generation it will.
          I have seen the diff in Indian males who when removed from India seem to be able to control their groping urges better.

          Thankfully it’s
          Has been many many yrs since I travelled by public transport I’m glad it has improved in planes atleast

    • I totally agree with you PT. Any person, irrespective of the gender should feel safe to travel in any compartment at any time of the day. Even if it is a pregnant woman, of women with kids, why is it necessary for a separate coach?! Dont we, as human beings have the basic courtesy to extend towards pregnant women, or women with kids in their arms or to even people with disabilities? Sure, having a separate coach might feel like an oasis in the desert (I have felt the difference myself in terms of peace of mind when I travel in a women’s coach), but just the fact that it feels like an oasis in the desert, is just so wrong!! Reservations (whether in coaches or educational institutes) just apply temporary balm on the existing crisis, but in reality it makes the crisis even worse, because it does not target the root cause of this crisis.

    • I agree with you PT. women’s only coaches were introduced in the delhi metro after increasing instances of harassment. Initially, I balked at the idea of travelling in a segregated coach and would make it a point to use the ‘general’ one. Over time though, I have noticed that things are actually getting worst- in the sense that because there are reserved coaches, any women who travels on a general one gets stared at etc much more than earlier.
      The reserved coach serves up a bit of a paradox- like the zenana it affords women the freedom to just ‘be’- dress the way they want (though that doesn’t stop women from passing comments on the way others are dressed/ made up or staring at them), talk loudly, have their kids run amok (pet peeve- why are Indian children SO badly behaved in public spaces- or why are they allowed to be so?) etc. But like a zenana, the reserved coach encourages further segregation and like you said, the disappearance of women from public – common- spaces, leading to even more abnormalities in societal mindsets.

      One thing I’ve noticed is how women go berserk- and though it’s a rude word, I don’t know how else to describe it, if a man spills over from a packed to capacity general compartment into one inch of the reserved coach. Because they have the support of other women, they shout at the man, even unreasonably so.

      If I can help it, I travel only in the reserved coach now- its less crowded, no stares etc. But I continue to feel uncomfortable when I see men packed like sardines in the adjoining coach, but not being able to move even a step forward to get another inch of breathing space.

    • I agree its a topical solution to a very chronic problem. Segregation has never brought good results when applied to People.

      For all the love I have for my country of birth, it disgusts me too when it comes to the kind of populance we have and it shames me to realize that I am partly responsible for creating that disgust too. A country is never about a demarcated piece of land, its always about what the people living in it do. And we arent doing right by half the population.

    • I totally agree with your POV. Just imagine if apartheid was continued in the name of reserving areas of the natives so that the white people would not beat them up! It is just discrimination disguised in a different form. While we may think we are being benefited, we women are actually slowing being separated from the mainstream under the tag of “special”. Blanket reservations have never worked, whether in education or in railway coaches. We are sending out the message that its ok for the men to keep doing what they do because they cannot help it if a woman is in sight.

      I agree with Radha too, if men all over the world can control their groping urges, why not Indian men? And it is not all men (hopefully) who grope, so if some Indian men can behave, why not all the men?

      Women are tax payers too. We do not get any special rebate in taxes because we are women. I think it is time we stood up and demanded that our tax money work for us in terms of police protection.

      • “We do not get any special rebate in taxes because we are women”.

        Really? Looks like your husband or boyfriend or brother or father is doing your taxes.

  22. Instead of segregating women ( who are the victims here), maybe we should have reserved coaches for men, and women should be allowed complete freedom to travel.
    Why should women have 1 coach or a few seats reserved for them when its them who are being subjected to harassment. If men cant control their hands, maybe its time to bind them.

    Its high time when we stop teaching our daughters, sisters, mothers , girlfriends ways of avoiding such nuisance, and start teaching men some basic etiquettes and techniques to control their hands and minds.

    Have we ever heard of an incident where a man complained of being groped/touched/ pinched by any woman in any crowded place?

    • Ooooo!!! I love that idea…yep, lets put men in separate compartments, buses, and lanes on the road, especially the men who cant control their urge to grope, are lewd, have ideas that women are “weak” and are proud of it, also men who think “Women should be women and not an individual” and those Idgits who Claim Manu Smriti is what we should follow today when it comes to gender discrimination. Lets have Compartments labelled “For Men who cant control their URGES around Women”. There should also be a law where when a man is caught groping, he should wear a permanent tattoo on his forehead with the letters “Groper” or have an electronic band on his ankle that rings an alarm whenever it senses a woman(maybe an estrogen sensor or progestrone sensor) near by so that women know(sort of like belling the cat)…Oh!! so many ideas I could dream off.

  23. I have travelled in Delhi buses extensively and never felt the need for reservation for women. I never took up a seat that said ‘keval mahilaye’ if there was a seat available in the general area not because I was never groped or mishandled. One bold, angry, ‘I will kill you if you dare do that again’ look was ALL I ever needed. I remember once slapping someone while getting down the bus because he wouldn’t stop following me. He was so dumbfounded that he froze there and forgot all about getting down.

    I dislike any special(awkward) treatment meted out to me because I am a woman, like a man opening a door for me or offer to carry my bags and expect me to be impressed by the act. It irritates and insults me. I am perfectly able to look after myself even when I’m pregnant and travelling by bus. I travelled every day by bus to attend college, while I was 8 months pregnant. Pregnant women don’t need to sit at all times. They need to be aware of their surroundings, and be extra careful.

    All I expect being a woman is to be treated normally and not be stared at, even by women.

    And seriously, I am a human being first…looking around I see humans who must feel the same way I do, I think. Somewhere there is compassion in every soul. I believe there are more chances of finding compassion and kindness in people (men or woman) than finding safety in a reserved seat.
    There are men who grope, there are women who stare, are rude, will push, pinch, even knock you down just to get ahead…then there are men and women who will go to any length to ensure you are as safe as a member of their own family. I have met both kind of people and can happily say, I’ve met more of the latter.

  24. Whilst in principle I would prefer there was no need for reserved carriages, until the broader social issues are resolved they are necessary here. To be honest, I am so relieved that I can get in a female only carriage, I am not sure I would travel by train if I couldn’t.

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