A Scandalous Move

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi Metro Rails now have reservation for women in some form or the other. In Delhi Metro, every train’s first coach will have certain seats in each compartment that are reserved for women. Metros in Mumbai also has reserved half a coach, and Kolkata Metro has reserved a few number of seats in every coach for women. Yet, continuously questions are to be raised on why women are facilitated with this special ‘privilege’, and whether it does any good at all. For instance, in online discussion forums, women who support reservations are called hypocritical or followers of pietism and many – including women – insist that reservation should only be for pregnant/elderly women or women carrying children or females during their menstrual cycle. While other women do not need it, and hence should not ask other passengers including and especially men to vacate reserved compartments or seats, some voices say. Studies and researches from across the world have pointed out and suggested that one of the major concerns among women is safety in public transport. A survey conducted in 2015 for about 493 female bus passengers using Bangalore transport services conducted by faculty at the MS Ramaiah Institute of Management and others, found out and was shocked to know that half the women surveyed had faced somewhere faced sexual harassment in buses. Awkward touch by other passengers and conductors was a common issue, along with stealing and theft. But only a petty amount of 0.09% had ever filed a police complaint. The circumstances coerce women to either silently endure and tolerate, or are left with the option to opt or shift to other transport modes, the survey finds. Thirty-nine percent of the women who had faced or encountered problems, had already put an end to using buses altogether. Transport officials and authorities should accumulate data on women’s needs specifically, and put in the application these in transport operations and designs, says EMBARQ. For example, there can be frequent and continuous bus services during off-peak or idle hours and to outskirts/edge areas as well, instead of only applying bus in busy hours connecting to the main city center. Executing such measures can refashion women’s experience of public spaces entirely and absolutely, and pave the way for the coming time where gender-based reservation of seats will not remain an option. But the actual reality is that these are a long way away, and immaterialist at this point. For now, therefore, while we demand such remodeling, we should at the same time ensure reservation to ensure some act of safety. Reservation must be a matter of right, and not as charity or entitlement.

-Avantika Jha

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