A group of photos which were part of a marketing campaign for a t-shirt collection has led to a social media discussion around a serious social issue.
A number of photos depicting women wearing t-shirts with caption, 'Gaa gheshe daraben na (Do not stand too close to me)' went viral on Facebook and other social media platforms during the past week. These photos have led to arguments on social media about the issue of harassment and assault of women in public transport and public places.
Most female users of Facebook have shared the photos with their own experiences of harassment on public transports. They have pointed out that on their way to their academic institutions, workplaces and other destinations, they often board public buses. When they cannot find seats, they have to stand inside the bus. This allows some male passengers to physically harass them. Most of the time, these female passengers are forced to suffer this humiliation without protesting as they cannot see who the person is in the crowd. There are some who try to protest. But in those cases, other male passengers often come to the rescue of the culprit with different excuses.
Where harassment is the issue, there should naturally be no excuse. Still, some social media users have pointed out that the captions could have had a different phrasing. Male commuters have also shared that often the crowded public buses are so congested that there is no space between two standing passengers. In some situations, when the driver brakes hard, often passengers fall on each other. This leads to an awkward situation if some of the standing passengers are women. Others have claimed that t-shirts and similar attires with such a message can provoke more assaults.
In response, female victims have stressed that regardless of age and dress code, such harassments are faced by most women on all crowded public buses.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, many women commuters preferred rickshaws and three-wheelers. The fares were higher for these than the public buses. Still they preferred it because the trips were comfortable without any scope of harassment.
At the moment, most roads and streets of Dhaka do not allow the plying of rickshaws. Fares of CNG-run three-wheelers have hit the roof. Daily trips by women have increased manifold as they have to go to their schools, colleges, universities, workplaces and other destinations. Like their male counterparts, they also want to save on daily transport fare. But the harassment of female commuters on public buses has of late been increasing. The t-shirt collection has apparently tried to shed light on this issue. Not just in public transport, women face similar harassment in crowded malls, streets and other public places.
The country lacks adequate supply of female-friendly public transport. Most buses are in dilapidated condition. Some do not have designated seats for female passengers and physically-challenged people. The drivers and other staff on these buses are not properly trained by the transport services.
It's high time that the concerned authorities considered these issues and came up with measures to address the problem of harassment of women on public transports.
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