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Right to safe, efficient and reliable public transport

Right to safe, efficient and reliable public transport
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Shahida Mansoor and Irriza Javaid
Efficient, affordable and reliable public transport is the remarkable indicator of development and wonderful sign of successful welfare State. Public transport attains more significance in the non-egalitarian, gender biased societies where safety of women is always at stake.
Objectification of women has got deeply embedded in the men psyche of our society. Conservative traditions combined with sharp paternalism have culminated at muzzling of female voices.
Girls brought up in an atmosphere of patriarchy where speaking louder is attributed to indecency and subservience is eulogized has restricted the women from registering their protest and express their disenchantment publicly.
We in Kashmir used to be proud of women safety which actually was a mirage as women continued to suffer silently from male chauvinism, domestic violence and Kashmir conflict. The curtains came down and myths started to get busted when a very young girl of district Kulgam lost the battle of life after she was raped in orchards by three men.
Few years back there was an acid attack on another girl in Srinagar. Gang rape, acid attack is not a sudden aberration but is a culmination of deniability of sexual harassment, female prejudice, venom spewed by self-styled God man against girls where blame for every natural calamity is rested on the shoulders of women.
What has further complicated the problem and developed the fear psychosis among women folk is the Kashmir conflict as it has masked out the other intra societal conflicts of society.
Coming back to the public transport where we had started this article, it is pertinent to mention that public transport for the girls in Kashmir have become the nightmare. The sense of security of travelling is replaced by anxiety and fear.
Fear? Yes, the fear of travelling in the public transport. There would be hardly any girl who has not been subjected to sexual harassment in buses. Such incidents have badly affected the mental health of girls and discouraged them to use public transport and most importantly, it had been one of the primary reasons of school/college dropouts.
There are thousands of girls who reduce the frequency of attending the colleges/schools and that makes them more vulnerable to mental health diseases, domestic violence and deprivation of their right to education and taking part in co-curricular activities.
Here, we must mention that our society does not encourage nor does it have the mediums of engaging girls in co-curricular activities. There used to be times when our women folk were doing Rouf in the evenings, singing of traditional folk songs. Now Schools/colleges are the only remaining places where girls can experience the liberty of expressing themselves and what can be a bigger misfortune for a girl who has been compelled to stay at home due to sexual harassment in bus or market.
Things get worse for the girls of marginalized sections who cannot afford to go school/college by other means of transport except public one. There has already been a shrinkage in the public transport of Kashmir as people prefer to travel in their private vehicles/Sumos which are the choices imposed on the poor people.
What astonishes us is that indifference of civil society and incompetency of the politicians to even think of public transport. Have you ever seen any manifesto of political parties, be it Left or Right, where they have talked about public transport? Forget about the priority.
The changing political landscape of Kashmir and evolving sociological changes should not stop women from reclaiming their space and assert their rights. As they say for the half earth half the sky, we shall fight we shall win. Women need to speak up and prepare for bigger change where they are free and equal stakeholders.

KV Network

Kashmir Vision cover all daily updates for the newspaper

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