All-Women Public Transportation in India

Tired of sexual harassment in the form of pinches, stares, taunting, groping, and catcalling, Indian women now have access to all-women commuter trains, dubbed the Ladies Special, in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta.

India would seem to be a country where women have shattered the glass ceiling. The country’s most powerful politician, Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, is a woman. The country’s current president, a somewhat ceremonial position, is a woman. So are the foreign secretary and the chief minister of the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, and the new minister of railways. India’s Constitution guarantees equal rights for women, while Indian law stipulates equal pay and punishment for sexual harassment.

The New York Times article concerning the new trains details the shocking increase in incidents of violence against women and kidnappings from 2003-2007, demonstrating the need for increased personal safety for Indian women. So far, “The eight new trains represent a tiny fraction of the nation’s commuter trains.”
But this act by the government, which runs the commuter trains, recognizes physical mobility as a tenet of women’s empowerment. It allows greater access to employment, metropolitan areas, and financial independence. With greater personal safety, it follows that women will be more comfortable and more willing to travel, as well as to enter the workplace. Finance Canada, a microloan organization, notes:

Women’s status within the home increases as their self-confidence and economic self-sufficiency grow. They demonstrate significantly greater empowerment as measured by physical mobility, ownership and control of productive assets such as land, involvement in family decision-making, and legal and political awareness and participation.

Similarly, public transportation has long been an American issue of class. Even in a recent episode of Mad Men, Joan, the head secretary, discusses the subway only with the disclaimer that her fiancé would “never” allow her to take it. Taking public transportation, like driving, is a step toward equal opportunity for women. through The backlash against the new train service, such as public urination by men in the trains and protests by men, suggests this is a significant change in the government’s treatment of women in India’s metropolitan areas.
But still, to stop men harassing women, the police removed the women instead of educating those who harass. Perhaps this is a first-world concern about a developing nation, but the message sent is that the presence of women causes harassment, rather than the idea that those who prefer to objectify women and project their sexual desires onto strangers cause harassment. And lastly, women deserve that increased personal safety regardless of the presence of men.
As said by a Dr. Kumari at the end of the NYT article,

“You really need to make every train as safe as the Ladies Specials.”

Women-only train cars in Brazil
Japanese men angry over women-only train cars
Tehran introducing all-women transportation
Taking up space: The Blank Noise Project
Subway gropers exposed
Raise your hand if you’ve been harassed on the subway

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