The local bus is one of the cheapest and most easily accessible modes of transportation in Dhaka.
Women and men routinely use buses, for both their affordable fares and availability. In fact, over the last few years, the public transport service in Dhaka has improved substantially.
Public transport reserves some seats for women, called “ladies seats” (mohila seat). They do it to make the journey easier for women.
The same bus that tries to serve women in the time of their need facilitates the abuse of women. As a matter of fact, in recent years, hundreds of girls in Bangladesh and across the border have been raped on public transport.
Even though the number of buses has increased with the aim to meet demand, they are far from being safe for women. Very recently, the Los Angeles Times wrote about a young woman being raped by five men in a minibus in Dhaka, echoing a fatal attack on a woman in New Delhi in 2012.
Another woman was raped in the same manner in a running minibus, which was heading towards Dhaka from Tangail. She was alone in the bus, and was raped by three men.
Every day, many girls go through severe psychological and physical trauma due to sexual harassment. Not only this, there are accounts of women being raped in groups and even murdered on public transport.
The women who survive these horrors are overlooked by society. A very small number of girls can summon up the courage to go to the police to file a case. Those cases stay obscure most of the time.
The women who survive these horrors are overlooked by society. A very small number of girls can summon up the courage to go to the police to file a case. Those cases stay obscure most of the time
Why do men rape women on public transportation, and threaten them afterwards? This question cannot be answered only on the basis of the established male-dominated society in Bangladesh.
Patriarchy is, of course, a major issue here, but there is more to it. Women in Bangladesh are categorised as “mothers,” but this notion is completely blown away when they are raped irrespective of their age.
How does a person trying to grope a girl in a bus perceive this “mother figure” then? He measures a female body in front of him, not a human being.
A society like Bangladesh is controlled by religious beliefs and norms. People repeatedly quote religion to establish personal opinion. Men bringing religion to establish patriarchy in society are most likely to be the ones lacking in religious knowledge.
Religion does not place men over women to abuse them, but a lack of proper knowledge has given them the misguided idea that they can use women as objects.
They blame women for wearing skimpy clothes. Why? A woman’s outfit can never determine a man’s action.
Men forget the fact that Islam has also ordered them to restrain their gaze. Unfortunately, no one talks about that.
Not just drivers or conductors, but male passengers also take the advantage of the rush in the buses. Their silent but constant gaze cannot hide the lust they hold for women. Our so- called authority reserves distinctive mohila seats for women, but whenever a woman is alone in the bus, she becomes an inferior creature.
It is the lack of proper education that keeps up this system of inequality. As a result of this superiority complex in men, a woman becomes an object to a man’s eye.
While talking about the motivations behind sexual harassment on public transport, the effects of pornographic movies cannot be excluded. With the help of the internet, pornography is just a click away.
“Because of the internet and mobile phones, an overwhelming amount of amateur pornography is being created and subsequently shared with millions in Bangladesh,” reported the Dhaka Tribune.
Not only this, different sex stories are also available online. Websites and pages are loaded with erotic stories both in Bangla and English. Millions of readers are being added to these groups every day.
Sexual harassment in public transports has become an unbearable problem. It is time we stood against it.
We have to rise against this vicious phenomenon before it gets more out of our control. The government’s stand against sexual harassment is not enough to put an end to it.
It is us who have to come forward, and discuss a solution to this matter openly.
Sanjida Chowdhury is a freelance contributor.