Considered a safer mode of transport, women usually prefer travelling on trains. But the Bangladesh Railway is yet to ensure adequate safety, security and comfort for the majority of female passengers. These are reflected in the absence of exclusive compartments for women or ladies coaches.
Though the Railways Act 1890, the legal framework to operate rail service in the country, has a provision to do so, it seems that the railway authority is indifferent to this issue. Section-64 of the act says that in every passenger train, at least a carriage has to be exclusively reserved for the female.
Unlike India, the government of Bangladesh doesn't adequately revise the railway act formulated in the colonial area 200 years ago. The Indian railway law has strong focus on women safety in rail journey including reserve compartment. Following the Section 58 of the Railways Act, 1989 the Indian rail authorities have earmarked a series of facilities for female passengers. These are totally absent in Bangladesh.
Due to lack of dedicated or reserved non-AC (air-conditioned) compartments for female, a train journey sometimes becomes nightmarish for them both in local and inter-city express trains. In many cases, they have to struggle to get their reserved seats even after having tickets. Sometimes the railway staff and male co-passengers don't cooperate with women passengers. So, many female passengers can't get on the train or forced to miss the train.
In some cases, non-AC compartments in inter-city trains, packed with standing male passengers, make it very difficult for women to sit comfortably. Incidents of sexual harassment are also there especially at night time. Women and children are also sometimes harassed by porters, beggars and vendors. As they have free access to different stations, they are always present on platforms. Then come miscreants and drug peddlers. Rail stations and adjoining areas are safe zones for them.
Against the backdrop, introduction of a ladies coach in the middle of each train is overdue. The coach also has to be guarded by women security staff and attendants so that unauthorised entry of male passenger could be checked strictly. It doesn't, however, mean that females cannot board regular compartments, be they accompanied by their male family members or not.
Setting a dedicated corner for baby care including breast-feeding facility in every ladies coach is also a requirement now. Toilets should also be facilitated with adequate water and hygiene kits. All these are not a list of luxury but necessary things. It will require a pinnate at railway's annual budget which stood at Tk 126 billion in the current fiscal year.
In Bangladesh, overall railway security structure is weak which needs to be revamped. Women safety and security should also get adequate and immediate attention in this regard.
© 2017 - All Rights with The Financial Express