Females continue to face harassment in public buses

Srinagar, Feb 16:  Asra Shafi (name changed) was traveling in a bus to reach her college when she felt a strange touch on her back. She realized that a man of his father’s age seated next to her was touching her inappropriately.

“I was dumbstruck and not able to understand how to react in front of many passengers. I asked him to move aside and placed my bag in between until I reached college,” Asra said.

It did not stop there. Next day the man was waiting for her at the same bus stand. “I got into a bus but he followed me.  I tried to call up my friend. He seemed hardly bothered and repeated what he had done a day before,” she said.

For next one week, Asra had to endure the torture until her friend asked her to call up an NGO. “My friend advised me to teach him a lesson. I called up an NGO and the next day he was caught and put behind bars,” she said.

Another teenage girl from Srinagar faced similar kind of harassment while traveling in a local bus. “I was standing inside a jam-packed bus when a male passenger, who was in his 50’s and standing behind me, tried to rub his hands on my shoulders. I tried to move aside but couldn’t help as the bus was overloaded,” she said.

This is just a tip of the iceberg of the sexual harassment of girls on the public transport. Hundreds of girls are enduring torture every day on the public transport across the valley.

 “There is no data available on the harassment of women on public transport because most of the cases go unreported,” said Safeena Nabi, a Kashmir-based women’s activist.

Moreover, she said, there is no proper mechanism in place to encourage women to report their problems. “There was a woman commission where crimes against women were reported. After Article 370 abrogation, it was disbanded,” she said.

District Commissioner, Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said they have set up One Stop Center for women in the city. “Any woman facing any kind of harassment can call on 181 for immediate help. It is a center established by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Women in distress can register the complaints about harassment at public places with this center”, he said.

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