Being Woman, Am I safe and free? – “Because I was the only girl left in the bus”

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It was 7:30pm and I was returning from office to home. We had to finish some deadline, so me and my friend stayed late to complete as much work and wrapped up the day with a fast cup of coffee. I have stayed till 8, 8:30 at some days at work. Normally, it is 8:30 when me and my friend reach home. It was totally normal for me.

But, something was slightly different today. I did not have my scooter and had to travel in public micro bus. I had not felt any major difference other than the compulsion to stay in traffic jam; until everyone started getting off and the micro bus became almost empty with me and two guy passengers and two guys – driver and conductor remaining.

A sudden sensation ran through my nerves! It was an uneasy sensation, probably a sensation of fear… Because I was the only girl left in the bus and the two other passengers had already paid their fare to get off at a place which was two stations before mine.

And I had been noticing unusual shift of the conductor towards my seat in slightest swing of the vehicle. I have seen, heard, experienced myself, many incidents of women being harassed at road or public vehicles. Although I was confident that it is my right to safely travel in pubic vehicle at any time, but still, I could not deny that feeling. That extra alertness, that fear! I was hating that feeling as much as I was hating the reasons behind my fear.

Then to my relief, two other men got into the bus at unexpected places. I had this relief, because one of the man seemed to be a ‘decent’ guy, or at least I could think so because he was minding his own business, talking in phone to someone and not starring at me, unlike the other person sitting by my side.

The seemingly ‘decent man’ and me, we both were equal passengers at that time. He was laughing freely, joining in a joke with the driver about a drunk man who gave him fare three times in a single ride. But at the same time, I had to be careful to see if there were any other drunk men in the bus!

I got off the bus, and had to take another to get home. I got a ventilated space at the corner of the door in the next micro bus that I got in. It was just a 10 minute ride. People ‘the men in the bus’ were so careful that I might fall of the bus, as I was standing near the door. It is not safe for both girls and boys to stand at the door, I know, but I remembered the man from the previous vehicle. Probably, even if he had to change to another crowded bus, he would not have to listen things like.. ‘ladies manchhe vayera kaha dhoka ma baseko, ladies manchhe jharyo vane, ladies manchhe huttinchha’ no one would have forced him to squeeze inside the crowd, and absolutely not just because he was a man!

I had to extra carefully catch the handle on the door, to make sure that I don’t fall off, because it would be a bad mark on girls’ reputation as a whole.

Uff.. A social transformation is needed to change this situation.. and a very strong law! But till then, girls still have to walk along the way. So what till then?

Self defense might be an answer. We might have to call the police according to the situation. But, to feel free and relieved during travel, I learned that I should be confident, bold enough to defend myself in any circumstances and have some skills of self defense to make sure that confidence does not go away. I think, may be only then, I, and girls like me can freely ride on a public bus with headphones on and enjoy the ride with the background music of our choice!

AUTHOR:
Anisha Luintel
Program Coordinator, Women Forum for Women in Nepal.

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Also Read:

Youth Opinion: Sexual Assault in Nepal, Law and Justice

“I am happy that he died”- Story of Child Sexual Abuse

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