Dhaka, Sept 25 (UNB) – Female passengers continue to face various harassments in public transports in the city as a women-friendly transport system could not be ensured yet though the number of working women has increased.
Talking to UNB, a number of female commuters said they hardy get any seat when they get into any bus as the rule of keeping seats reserved for women passengers is not maintained.
Besides, they alleged, bus conductors tend to ignore female passengers from getting in showing various excuses, and even if they do they touch them in appropriately.
According to a study conducted by Brac in 2018, 94 percent women commuting in public transports in Bangladesh have experienced sexual harassments in verbal, physical and other forms.
The government made a rule in 2008 that all the city buses must have nine seats designated for women, children and physically-challenged people while minibuses will have to keep reserved six such seats, but that could not be implemented properly yet.
“I’ve to go to my Motijheel office from Kuril Bishwa Road and return home after enduring a huge ordeal in public buses,” said Shaheena Akhter who works for a private firm.
Sharing her bad experiences in public transport, Shaheena said, “I often find no seat for women available in the busses that ply the route. Even, the reserved seats remain occupied by male passengers. In case of any protest, they react badly while conductors suggest us to get down.”
Besides, she said, the conductors in many cases decline to take in female passengers as most seats remain filled by male ones. “So, we’ve to waste huge time on the streets waiting for buses.
Jannatul Ferdous Swarna, a government employee, who travels from Natun Bazar to Gulistan to attend her office, said she uses BRTC’s air-conditioned buses usually, but there’s no seat kept reserved for women in those public buses either.”
Sonia, a private bank employee, said, “It’s difficult for women to travel standing all along in jam-packed buses with male passengers as they harass us in many ways. A female passenger is subjected to harassments like inappropriate touching, lewd gestures and sexual attacks by men.”
Contacted, Ain O Salish Kendra executive director Sheepa Hafiza said the involvement of women in both formal and informal sectors has largely increased, but the authorities concerned are oblivious to ensure safe and women-friendly public transports for them.
“Many male passengers don’t respect their female counterparts as they consider them as sexual objects. Unless there’s change in the attitude of the male passengers and transport workers, the situation won’t improve. A strong awareness campaign is needed in this regard,” she observed.
Hafiza suggested having a hotline so that female passengers can lodge complaints to the authorities concerned about their harassments and sufferings.
Narrating her personal experience, former caretaker government adviser Rasheda K Chowdhury said it is unthinkable how much harassments and discriminations female commuters face in public transports.
“Hearing various complaints from my colleagues in the public transport, I used public buses one day two years back wearing a veil to have the personal experience. What I myself witnessed there was horrible. The conductor intentionally touched female commuters while male passengers harassed them in many ways. I found a middle-aged man sexually harassing a young girl by touching her sensitive organs,” she said.
Besides, Rasheda said, female commuters face serious problems to get into a bus and manage a seat or stand safely.
She said the transport owners, workers, traffic police and government authorities must take coordinated efforts and ensure an effective system to remove harassments of female commuters and anarchy in the sector. “Mobile court should be conducted frequently to punish those who violate rules and harass female passengers.”
Urban expert and ex-chairman of UGC, Prof Nazrul Islam said female commuters are being subjected to serious discrepancy in transport sector for many reasons, including lack of monitoring and lax implementation of laws.
He said law enforcers must play an active role in forcing the transport workers to abide by rules and show respect for female commuters. “The development in social and cultural fronts is also necessary keeping the pace with economic growth to reduce discrimination and change people’s negative attitudes.”
Contacted, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said every bus and minibus must keep seats specified for female and physically-challenged passengers. “We’ll take action if this rule is violated.”
He said he will talk to Traffic and BRTA authorities to make sure that female passengers can travel by buses smoothly and the specific number of seats is kept aside for them.
Lokman Hossain Mollah, director (engineering) of BRTA, said they will cancel route permits any complaint is lodged with them against the buses that do not keep seats aside for female passengers.
Besides, he said, they have a plan to conduct mobile court against those who harass female passengers and deprive them of their rights.