In an attempt to protect women from sexual harassment, IPS is reporting that Guatemala City’s transit system launched a women’s only bus pilot project a couple of weeks ago. There are now dozens of women-only buses running during peak hours (6:00 to 7:30 am and 5:30 to 7:00 pm). Other than drivers, the only males allowed on the buses are boys under the age of twelve. The pilot was introduced due to the large number of complaints about men groping and rubbing up against women and girls on buses.
These buses are a small step in helping women to feel safer in Guatemala, which the United Nations lists as one of the most violent countries. The buses being used in the pilot program are newer buses with improved safety measures, such as prepaid cards, video cameras and security guards on buses. While IPS reported that women do feel safer on these buses, they also noted “off the bus, harassment is still an issue.” Ultimately, the buses are not the solution to Guatemala’s problems, but they may help remove one small stressor from the lives of women who deal with violence day in and day out.
Guatemala City is not the first city to introduce women-only buses. There were also women-only buses introduced this month in Bandung, Indoensia. In 2010, women-only buses were introduced in Malaysia, and in 2008 they were introduced in Mexico City. Back in 2009, Care2 reported on several other female-only transportation initiatives:
Following what seems to be something of an international trend, the Mexican city of Puebla has offered a new service to women plagued by “leering drivers”: a fleet of taxis, driven by women and catering exclusively to women. This comes on the heels of women-only train cars in Japan and Brazil, all-female transportation in Tehran, and “ladies’ specials” in India, all designed to free women from the sexual harassment that public transportation seems inevitably to bring.
The problem, of course, with all of these women-only transportation initiatives is that they are treating the symptoms, rather than the causes of sexual harassment. Of course they are a good idea and help to provide women with some level of protection in an environment where they are unsafe. However the bigger challenge is addressing the culture that makes it both acceptable and common for women to be sexually harassed and abused. In the IPS article, Ana Silvia Monzón of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences was quoted as saying: “I hope it’s only temporary and that men’s behaviour will improve, but for that to happen, other measures are needed as well.”
Image credit: sikeri on flickr