I pledge not to travel in the pink bus

I will continue travelling in the old buses and teaching the disorderly some lessons they are likely to remember.

Ayesha Jehangir January 08, 2012
This week the Punjab government inaugurated the first three ‘pink buses’, which are meant for female passengers only. With enough seats, affordable fares and smiling women conductors, this bus is not less than a dream come true for women tired of travelling in the jam-packed, wee ladies’ compartment in public buses.

For Pakistani women, no doubt the trepidation of unexpected hands, nasty ogling and irksome comments in public transport is reason enough to want a separate compartment in public transport vehicles. At least, it was for me. Throughout my university years, I travelled in all sorts of public transport on almost all routes. I have yelled at lousy conductors for passing by carelessly, intentionally rubbing their bodies against the women standing in the compartment due to lack of vacant seats or for handing over tickets while violating our personal space. I have shouted at men for deliberately touching our hands while pretending to be hopping into the bus in a hurry.

To our relief, finally, the government has realised that more than half of its population has trouble travelling in public transport. But the solution devised by the Punjab government is rather insular. Is segregation the only way to secure women? Will our men never learn to respect women? Though I am glad that the presence of women will now be felt by these buses it’s like we are turning our heads away from the chauvinism, prejudice and discrimination that prevails in our society.

By doing so, in a way, we are supporting the stance of those who demand separate colleges for women, segregation in weddings and other functions and sternly rebuff gender equality. For me, running away from situations is not the way to counter or solve them. Why not educate men and fine them on the spot for misconduct? Why not just throw them out of the bus right there and then? Why not set examples and warnings for such impish passengers?

I pledge not to travel in the pink bus, because I feel, by holding the place in the society that I do, I have a certain responsibility to make things better for our women, and that certainly does not include running away. I will continue travelling in the old buses and teaching the disorderly some lessons they are likely to remember.
Ayesha Jehangir A sub-editor on the Lahore desk of The Express Tribune. She graduated from Kinnaird College with a masters in mass communication and is a Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Fellow of Journalism at DW, Bonn.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.