Nepal’s capital introduces women-only buses in an attempt to reduce sexual harassment and groping on public transport.
Announced by the government on Jan 5, the initiative will start with four 16-seater buses that will ply a popular east-west route across the city during peak morning and evening hours. “There were complaints that women are facing groping and sexual harassment while travelling in crowded buses,” says Tulsi Prasad Sitaula, a senior Transport Ministry official.
There are no official figures for the number of sexual assaults in Nepal, but police say reports of violence against women – including rape, domestic violence and molestation – soared to 6,800 for the year up to July 2014 compared to 1,800 for the previous year. The rise is attributed to greater awareness of gender crimes.
Operators say the buses would initially have male drivers and that only one of the conductors was female, but they want to recruit more women staff.
“We want to gradually employ female drivers and conductors in these vehicles. But it is hard to find them,” says Dharma Raj Rimal of the National Federation of Transport Entrepreneurs group, which is behind the initiative. “If there is demand and the service becomes popular, we plan to expand to other routes in the city and extend its timing,” he adds.
Female commuters in Kathmandu welcome the move. “It is safer as well as more comfortable, but the buses must also run when it gets dark and when it is difficult for women to travel,” says 17-year-old student Parbati Gurung.
The overwhelming majority of women polled in a recent survey carried out by Thomson Reuters Foundation in the world’s 15 largest capitals say they would feel safer in single-sex areas on buses and trains. – Reuters