Women-only bus to detour sex harassment


MEXICO CITY (AFP) – “Traveling among women is so much more pleasant,” says Alejandra Lugo as she takes a seat on the women’s only bus that began circulating earlier this month in Mexico City.

“Otherwise, I have men sticking to me,” she says of her past days on the mixed-sex buses. “And here I am, 58 years old. Imagine how they treat the younger girls.”

The just-for-women city bus began on Monday as part of an experimental program aimed at protecting female passengers who are frequently exposed to sexual harassment on public transportation, where officials say 14 percent of rapes, sexual harassment and abuse took place in 2007.

“You have to put up with men who press up against you, try to kiss you, try to grab your purse,” said Susana Navarro, 29, an industrial designer. “No one gives up their seat for pregnant women or mothers with children.”

Now, on several of the most heavily traveled routes, buses that are off limits to men come along every 20-30 minutes, particularly during rush hour.

Sandra Jimenez, 29, takes cosmetics out of her handbag and applies her makeup meticulously as waits for the bus, explaining that thanks to this New Year’s “pleasant surprise” she has been able to save money by not taking taxis, which are much more expensive than the bus.

“With this type of transport, I can dress a little bit better, wear skirts without anyone bothering me,” she adds.

In the metro system, the first three cars of each train are already reserved for women only, but only during rush hour.

If not for those arrangements, “a woman could enter a metro car a virgin and come out pregnant,” jokes Linda Perez, 21.

Bus driver Jose Aragon, who has been on the job for 13 years, says he has on occasion had to “come to the assistance of passengers who were assaulted by men,” and has even called the police several times.

For higher security, two government guards ride in each vehicle to prevent anyone from potentially barging in. The only exceptions to the women-only rule apply to women with young male children or elderly male companions, or people who are handicapped.

“When we tell men that this is a bus reserved for women, some of them get upset or even insulted, but no one has yet tried to force his way on,” said security guard Daniel Islas.

Source: Unal Basusta