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?