The PR campaign “Let her travel safe” was an initiative against the crisis of sexual harrassment in public transport.
Researches have been made by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), that has concluded a percentage of 90% women have been harrassed in public transport at least once their life time and only 4% have reported the incidents.
The campaign would share stories of women who had hidden these stories to themselves without sharing it with anyone. So we thought of making them come out to share these stories, hoping that the men who harrassed women in public transport would realize the clarity of their actions and as per the bystanders, they would act promptly the next time they see a woman being harrassed without merely being an observer. Thus, in brief the project is aimed to stand against public transport harrassment faced by women by showing the clarity of their actions.
The PR campaign is organised by the Editors of Rotaract Club of University of Kelaniya namely, Senior Editor, Rtr. Suzan Liyanage, Co-Editors Rtr. Ravindy Siriwardane and Rtr. Parami Ranasinghe. The editorial team is thankful for the courage of the victims to stand up and share their experiences since this campaign would spread awareness about how crucial this topic is and how crucial it is to take and immediate action against this calamity.
Nevertheless, it should be said that there are men who defend women from being sexually harrassed at public transport and who degrade their own specimen who engage in such actions. Thus, we have received an article, a voice raised by a man against women being harrassed in public transport which will be included in the following article streak.
Today, as we celebrate the World Women’s Day we hope that there will be justice in terms of equality and equity to women as well as men who sexually harrass women in public transport would realize the clarity of their actions and would cease what they are doing!
ජැක් නොවන බස් ජැක්
දිනක් අධ්යාපන කටයුත්තක් සදහා මම මාගේ පියා සමග මාලබේ නගරයට ගොස් එම වැඩකටයුත්ත අවසන් වූ පසුව නැවත නිවස බලා ඒමට බසයක් එන තෙක් බස් නැවතුම්පොළේහි රැදි සිටියෙමු.එම අවස්තාවේ මගේ පියා මා හට පැවසූවේ බෙහෙත් අසුරා තැබීමට හැකි බොතල් කිහිපයක් රැගෙන එන ලෙස මව දුරකතන ඇමතුමක් දුන් බවයි.එය ඉතා අත්යවශ්ය කටයුත්තක් වන නිසාත,ඒවා මිලදී ගැනීම පියා හට නැවත කොළඹ බලා පිටත් වෙන්න්ට ඇති නිසාත්, පියා මා හට පැවසූවේ මෙතනින් පානදුර -නුවර බස් රථයක මට නිවස බලා යන ලෙසයි.
එයට අවනත වූ මම බොහෝ වෙලා බස් නැවතුම්පොළේ සිට මීලග ආ පානදුර බස් රථය වෙත ගොඩවැදුනෙමි.පානදුර බස් යනු කොයි මොහොතෙත් සෙනගින් පිරී යන බස් රථයකි.”අප්පෝ සෙනග” යන සිතුවිල්ලද සමගින් බසයට ගොඩවුන මම බොහොම අමාරුවෙන් එහි අසුනක් අල්වාගෙන ගමන් කරමී.බස් ටිකට් එක ලබැගැනීම පවා අපහසු වූයේ මාගේ බෑගය එතන උන් පුදගලයෙකුගේ ඇගට සිරවී තිබූ නිසාය.මාගේ වෙලාවට එය දුටු ඒ ලග අසුනක හිදගත් මැදි වයසේ කාන්තාවක් මාගේ බෑගය ඈ අසල රදාවාතබාගැනීමට කටයුතු කරන ලදි.එය මට මහත් සහනයක් විය.
වංගු හරහා බසය ඉදිරියට ඇදෙන්නට විය.ටික වෙලාවකින් පසුව මම හිටගෙන් උන් තැන සිටි කාන්තාව ඇයගේ ගමනාන්ටයට ලගා වූ බැවින් එම අසුන මට හිමිවිය.මා එහි අසුන් ගත්තෙ පෙර මාගේ බෑගය තබාගෙන සිටි කාන්තාවගෙන් මාගේ බෑගයත් අරගෙනය.සෙනනග නිසා මට එය ලබාගැනිම අපහසු නිසා මා අසල සිටගෙන සිටි පුද්ගලයකු බෑගය මා හට ලබාදෙන ලදි.ජනේලයේ ලග අසුන නොවි ඊට මෙහා අසුන මා හට ලැබිනි.ජනේලය ලග අසුනෙහි උන්නේ තරුනයෙකි.මද වේලාවකින් පසුව මා හට මහත් අපහසුතාවයක් ඇති වූයේ කවුරුන් හෝ මාගේ උරහිසට බර වන බව දැනෙන නිසාවෙනි.බස් රථය වංගු ගන්නා සෑම අවථාවකම එම පුද්ගලයා ඩයිවර්ටත් වඩා වංගු කපන ආකාරය මා හට වැටහුනේ ඒ සෑම වංගුවක්ම මාගේ පැත්තට කැපුන නිසාවෙනි.ඊටත් වඩා අප්රසන්න සිදුවීම වූයේ ඔහුගේ යම් අවයවයක් මාගේ උරහිසේ ඇතිල්ලෙන නිසාවෙනි.එතරම් පිළිකුල් සහගත හැසිරීමකි.
මෙච්චර පහත් මානසිකත්වයකින් හෙබි පුද්ගලයා කවුරැදැයි විපරම් කිරීමට මා හිස ඔස වූ විට දුටුවේ ඔහු වෙන කවුරුත් නොව මින් විනාඩි කිහිපයකට උඩදි මා හට මාගේ බෑගය ලගට ගැනීමට උදව් කරපු අර පුද්ගලයාය.රැකියාවක නිරත වන සේයාවක් ඇති මාගේ පියාගේ වයසේ වගේ පසුවන මෙම පුදගලයා වචනෙ පරිසමාප්ත අර්ථයෙන්ම “අසහනකාරෙයකි”.කොතරම් එම පුද්ගලයාගෙන් මිදීමට අසුනේ එහාට මෙහාට වූවත් ,බස් රථයේ වංගු මාගේ උත්සහයන් වියර්ත කර දමන ලදී.කදුලු පිරී තීබූ මාගේ දෙනෙතට කල්පනා වූයේ මා අසල උන් තරුණයාට හෝ මේ බව කියා යම් පිළියමක් ලබාගැනීමටයි.
“අයියේ..මට මෙතන ඉන්න අමාරැයි සීට එක මාරැ කරගම්මුද?”
එය ඇසුන සැටි එම තරැණයා කිසිදු පැකිලීමකින් තොරව මා සමග අසුන මාරුකරගැනීමට කටයුතු කරන ලදි.එය මට මහත් ඇස්වැසිල්ලක් විය.
ඔහු හට සිදුවූ සිදුවීම මා පැහැදිලි කරන්නට විය.ඔහුත් ඒ පිළිබඳව හොදින් අසා සිටියෙමි.
“දැන් මිනිස්සූ බස් වල යන්න දන්නේ නෑ.ජරා සත්තු.බනින්න තිබ්බේ හොදට ආයේ ඔහොම වැඩ නොකරන්න..”
ඔහුගෙ පිළිතුරැ එසේ වෙද්දි මා දුටුවේ කලින් වංගු නැතත් මා දිහාවට වංගු කැපූ අර පුද්ගලයා බස් රථය වංගු ගත්තද නොසෙල්වි සිටින ආකාරයයි.මාගේ ගමනාත්තය වූයේ ‘නිට්ටඹුව’ යි.මා හට සහනයක් වූයේ ඒ තරැණයාගේද ගමනාත්තය නිට්ටඹුව වීමයි.බස් රථය නිට්ටඹුව නගරයට ලගා වෙනවාත් සමග මා අසුනින් නැගිට ගත් අතර මට බසයේ දොර ගාවට යන්න ඉඩදී ඔහු මා පිටු පසින් සිටගත්තේ අර පුද්ගලයා බලා සිටින විටදීය.
බසයෙන් බැස ගත් පසුව නැවතත් එම තරැණයාට ස්තූති කල මම නිවස බලා ඒමට නිට්ටඹුවෙන් බසයකට ගොඩවිය.
(මා ඒ දවස ඇදගෙන සිටියේ ඩෙනිම් කලිසමක් සහ ඇග කිසිසේත් නිරාවරණය නොවූ අත් දිග දනහිස වඩා ටිකක් කොට බ්ල්වුසයකි(ටොප් එකක්).මා හට තාමත් ඇති ගැටලුව වන්නේ එසේ ඇද පැලදගෙන සිටියද මම එවන් අවස්ථාවක්ට මූන දුන්නේ ඇයි දැයි යන්නයි.එයින් පෙනී යන්නේ ගැහැනුන්ගේ විලාසිතා තුල නොව ගැටලුව ඇත්තේ වයසින් වැඩුනත් මනසින් නොවැඩුනු පුද්ගලයන්ගේ හැසිරීමි රටාවයි..)
I was heading home somewhere between 6 and 7 pm. The bus was jam-packed with people but I managed to get a seat after a few halts. That disgusting man who was somewhere between 40s was at first standing right next to me, as soon as the other person who was seated next to me got up to get down; he managed to get the seat next to me. Quite often I saw him checking me out. I was always plugged in with my earphones since I love to listen to music when I travel to the university back and forth. I was using my phone and I felt something was wrong. At first I thought it was a mistake that him being so stiff to my side. I tried to move to the very end of the seat. Later I felt something in my thighs. He kept squeezing them!! That feeling is sooo disgusting! I was paralysed since I couldn’t do anything! ANYTHING! I frowned at him but still he kept on doing it. I moved my legs and he still kept finding ways to touch my thighs. And I couldn’t hold it any longer. I frowned harder, this time he took away his disgusting hands away from me and got down from the next stop. I was petrified and terrified! I didn’t know what to do except thinking all possible ways to cut off my thighs because I abhorred them! I came home, rushing and as soon as I got to my room I cried! Because that’s the only choice that I was left with! And trust me this wasn’t the first time either! Incidents as such have had happened to me on buses quite a number of times and also to my friends. I still don’t know why any action is not taken for such maniacs!
A voice raised by a Man against women being harrassed in public transport!
How many times have you seen women become victims of harassment in public transport? And how many times have you fallen into a mere bystander who didn’t want to get involved? It could be simply put as sexual perversion running amok in society all the way from office spaces, shopping malls, houses and sidewalks to public transport. It has happened in the past; it happens now and it will definitely be a bleak future if it keeps on happening.
Sri Lanka is known to be a place of rich cultural values, traditions and morals but for some reason, none of these values are prevalent in a microcosmic scale. When society is examined under a microscope, all these so-called values, morals and traditions that hail from this glorious culture fall apart. But why? Why has sexual perversion become such an epidemic in this society if the standards of morals and culture are so high? The answer lies in the question itself. Let me explain…
Culture and morals are a huge part of Sri Lankan society and most children when growing up had these puritanical ideas imposed upon them whether liked it or not. However, as these children grow up, some of them start questioning these ideas and start to break free but the majority, even though they show the world that they are breaking free, are still consumed by these age-old values and norms that they start believing these imposed ideas as their own ideas. In a culture where sex is treated as something repulsive and something to be shamed of, the psychology of the younger generation is engineered to hide their true feelings and desires. Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways. This is how sexual perversion comes into existence and seeps into society continuing to haunt the minds of the masses.
Sadly enough, public transport is a place where these ghosts of society come alive the most. Whether they are buses, trains or three-wheelers public transportation services are in and of themselves “liminal spaces”. These are places where one doesn’t stay for long and are more likely to be transitional places. Non-consensual touching and groping happen in these spaces and most people shrug it off either as something “normal” or something that needs to be ignored. Sure, it is difficult to move around in a crowded bus or a train without accidentally disturbing someone but this is not about those kinds of scenarios. This is about those instances where individuals, especially males force themselves upon women in a calm and nonchalant demeanor. Now, if the woman fights back it can go either of two ways, one; she catches the culprit red handed and the people acknowledge her action to stand up and support her. Two; she fights back, the crowd keeps staring, some stay silent and culprit smirks it off like it’s nothing and makes the woman look like a crazy person shouting at someone for no reason. It is in fact sad to say that scenario two is the most likely to happen and scenario one happens rarely and even if it happens, the culprit flees scot free.
The more I talk to people, the more I realize how much of a social problem this actually is. Ever since we are young, we see these kinds of situations unfold but choose to do nothing. Even when we do decide to stand up for someone, we are met with more criticism and the female is looked down upon. But it is the duty of the sane individual to act right and stand up for the ones in need. Stand up against the harassment of women in public transport because who knows to whom it could happen to next? It could be your own mother, your sister, your wife or your girlfriend. Stand up against this unfairness and help eradicate this epidemic in order to make a better world for everyone.
I’m sure all of us have our own ‘bus stories’ to narrate since it is so rarely that we can find a person who had never used public transport among the middle class people. So this incident still lingers in my mind as an ‘experience’ which made me feel that our safety lies in our own hands often times. Acting out or speaking out for your safety is really important in a world like this. And when a woman speaks up for another woman I find it really important because even when you travel alone, there will always be a mother, sister or a friend next to you to support you in any difficulty.
I was going back home from the university at the end of a very hectic day. Even though I use not to take the window seat when traveling alone especially when there’s a man next to me, I was so tired that I took the window seat next to a man (about 40 in age) that day. I was surprised that no one sat there even though there were a few people standing up in the bus. After a few minutes I noticed that the man had had an unusual drowsiness as he began to lean onto my shoulder to take his ‘quick- nap’. I couldn’t think about what I should do and I squeezed towards the window until the only option was to jump out of it. Then an aunty who stood next to that man noticed me and gestured me to stand up and come out. She tapped that man (so hard since it looked like he was in a coma) and let me come out. Later she told me that he did the same thing to the woman who had sat there earlier and that was why she (the aunty) had remained standing. She told me not be afraid to react to such situations and that I am the only one to protect myself when traveling alone. I thanked her a lot and I heard a good deal of bus stories from her as we both took the next bus together.
One day while I was travelling home, I got into a bus and sat at a window of an empty seat near the back door. While the seats were filling little by little, a middle aged man with a heavy backpack got in from the front door and came back observing every seat while hanging on a telephone call. He came to me and then holding on his phone excused me politely and asked my permission to sit next to me. As there was no other seats, I had no reasons to refuse and so I said OK. He kept his bag next to me and I heard him telling through the phone; “Machan I finally found the bus, thank god I can directly go to my destination in this”. He went to front door, waved at someone, came back to the seat and settled in it. All the way he was acting like as if he was getting ready to a long journey in the bus. While the bus was moving little by little, I felt him coming to my side unnecessarily while the bus was taking turns. At first I didn’t mind it. After a while, he started keeping his arm touching my body awkwardly. While I kept my arm blocking his, he started crossing arms infront while touching my stomach by his elbow. I was so nervous as this was the most awkward and disgusting moment in my life until then. I tried to defend myself by pushing him aways, but my little body against a giant like him was in vain! Luckily there was another empty seat and I jumped out of the seat overturning him and took my seat in the empty seat. The whole bus looked at him and suddenly the man, unable to face the shame, directly got down from the next halt. The irony is he who settled in for a long journey and told his friend that he will be directly going to his long destination in the bus, got down in just 2, 3 halts. Either he was really traveling a long way but had to got down being unable to face the shame; or else he was a real coward who acted as a long distance traveller just to sit beside a girl and have some fun while harassing. Either way, as a girl being personally harassed in public transport, I believe that lunatics like him has to be harshly criticised while girls should be more protected and made space to travel safer in public.
Well I have my fare share of being harassed in the bus stories (because by now it’s like a regular part of life unfortunately) but I’ll go with the latest. I was in the bus and it was a short ride. There was a guy next to me, looked as if he was in my age or maybe a little younger. At first when he sat down next to me and his arms were almost touching mine I was only skeptical. He was tall and a lot larger than me so at first I thought maybe it was because he required a little space. (And honestly because of that I didn’t wanna call him out immediately because I’m also used to men saying “if you wanna travel comfortable, don’t get in the bus” as if that explains everything.) But when his hand started to rub against mine I decided to tell him to move his hand away. I didn’t expect him to get angry and start to frown and give me vicious looks once I call him out. Honestly by that point I wasn’t even scared but was shocked and angry because there I noticed him harassing me. But I didn’t try to move my seat because I feared he’d do more if I try to move past him. A couple of bus stops later he stood up to get off from the bus and made it a point to rub his hand over my shoulder and arm as he got up. It took me a few seconds to even register that it happened because I did call him out. I did try to do something about it. But it only made my situation worse.
I’m lucky enough to have grown up in an environment where no one made me feel like it’s my fault. But outside, it’s completely a different story and we as women are made to go through it everyday. As if we should just ignore it. And nothing is worse than that feeling of being used, touched and violated against my will. I know we encourage women to speak out. But by the time we speak out, we are already the victims of sexual harassment. So while speaking out and talking about harassment is a good move, I also wish that there should be more awareness on the side of the perpetrators to make them aware that it’s not normal. That it’s wrong. So that we won’t have to change our daily lives preparing for the worst. Because, I’ve only seen a handful of the abusers actually being punished but many women victims being blamed for what they wear, how “aggressive” and “unwomanly” they acted against their abusers and for travelling alone at unsafe times.