• State witnesses surge in harassment of females in buses
• 3223 molestation, eve teasing cases registered in 2011, 12; many go unnoticed
Srinagar, Oct 03: Unwelcome physical contacts and advances, words or comments, making females hearing it uncomfortable, jokes and obscene gestures are the common practices used in public transportation of the valley to tease women sexually.
These practices have made it too difficult for women especially girls to use different modes of public transport, more so in Valley towns and Srinagar city.
As per the nature of complaints received by various police stations women in City are continuously subjected to sexually offensive remarks while using various modes of public transport especially mini buses. Around 1554 cases of molestation (1194) and eve teasing (350) have been registered under sections 354 and 294 RPC (outraging modesty) in the year 2011.
According to ‘crime against women’ record available with the state police, 1669 cases of molestation (1322) and eve teasing (347) have been registered under sections 354 and 294 RPC (outraging modesty) in 2012 in whole J&K. District Srinagar is leading with 524 complaints for which cases stand registered.
Rising Kashmir interacted with many girls who have suffered ‘molestation, eve teasing, sexual harassment’ at the hands of drivers, conductors and male passengers. They either complained about the weird behavior of male co-passengers or the conduct of drivers and conductors in the public buses. Shaheena (name changed), a 17-year-old girl told Rising Kashmir that she boarded a 23 number overcrowded mini bus from Batamaloo to Rambagh.
“I was eagerly looking for a seat when the driver acted like a boy scout and created space for me by his side. Feeling appreciative towards the driver I occupied the space but realized soon that his (driver’s) act was driven by less noble intentions,” she said adding, “He (driver) kept looking at me frequently, but thanks to the woman sitting by me. She was wise enough to understand that I was in a problem. She asked me to fasten my dupatta (scarf) properly. But it was not enough to make the offender stop. He started making indecent remarks at me.” Feeling irritated and humiliated Shaheena asked the driver to stop the bus and she chose to get down.
Even though government has ordered reservation of first eight seats for women in all public buses, male passengers hardly follow it. One can find stickers reading ‘first 8 seats reserved for women’ pasted inside mini buses, but neither drivers nor male passengers pay any heed. A woman standing in the middle of a crowded bus only invites unwelcome physical contacts and similar advances.
Khushboo Shafi, another woman commuter from the city said, “Once I was coming back from my office and had to face a tough time as people refused to obey the seat reservation rule,” she said. “It was late in the evening and I had no option but to board a mini-bus which was almost filled with male passengers. The entire scene terrified me a lot,” she added.
Many girls complained about misbehavior of bus conductors. They said that besides overloading a bus, the conductors push passengers while collecting fare and if a female objects to it they ask her to get down from the bus and board an auto.
Facing molestation in buses, girls said not only drivers and conductors but male passengers and co-passengers make situations intolerable for them by trying to violate the personal space through nudging and touching by their feet, Anjum Afshaan, a college student said. She said it is very hard to travel in mini-buses and other vehicles in the city. One would either find drivers or conductors passing indecent comments when they see a woman passenger, or male passengers literally leaning towards females.
Nadiya Hamid, another victim girl said she faces eve teasing most of the times in public transportation and feels ‘unsafe’ when such things happen. “I wonder why there isn’t any law against this and if there is then why don’t authorities take action against this,” she questioned.
Women with whom Rising Kashmir talked regarding the issue appealed the government to keep an eye on such incidents so as to protect females especially using public transport. “Government should take the issue to the centre stage,” they demanded.