The majority of Sri Lankan population uses public transport for their daily travel needs. What more can one expect than to reach their destination safe and sound. So, what does ‘safe and sound’ actually mean? It depends on each passenger.. would he/she reach their destination on time without meeting with an accident or without facing any harassment. Then, what is harassment? How is that relevant to public transport? I would say that it is the most relevant term associated with public transport, especially amongst females. If a girl starts using public transport, her mother's first advice would be ‘BE ALERT’, while travelling see who is standing by you, seated behind you and next to you. All this counts to being alert. Then, is being alert only, enough? No, one should be brave enough to stand up against it as well. I'm sure every woman might have experienced at least one such incident while using public transport. If not, that's a surprise!

 

One such incident, I'm quoting thus;

“while I was travelling by bus, seated at the window seat, a man sat next to me. A little while afterwards, I felt his foot touching mine, and I moved myself further towards the window, each time I did so he moved towards me. He even tried talking to me about the bus being late at a certain junction. I ignored and continued to look at my phone. As I’d been travelling for 20 minutes, I felt he was doing this on purpose. Still I tolerated thinking it would stop but it didn't. I lost my patience, turned and yelled at him to move away. He was shocked but daring enough to take advantage of the conductor pushing against him. I didn't budge. I said “it didn't happen now but you've been like this from the time you sat”. At that moment, I heard two men seated on the other side of the bus supporting him saying these things are common in buses and one need not overreact to such a minor occurrences and if so, it's better to travel by your own vehicle. I just ignored and continued to ask that man to move away. He didn't, so I stood up. The destination was nearing while I heard some women in front mumbling that I was overreacting. When the bus stopped, the man came to me and threatened to hit me unless I weren't a woman, but I did not keep quiet. I said “I wouldn't remain until you hit me”. He was aroused and reacted but the conductor came towards him yelling and chased him out of the bus. Some of the other passengers also started scolding him. I got down and left. Many appreciated what I did.”

 

That day was a victory as though he tried to prove her wrong; she faced her harasser and made a stand against his behavior. This may have stopped him from harassing other girls in the future. It is also shameful to see how women supported the man. The conductor should be praised for taking action against the man (I've heard many incidents where the conductors have been supporting ‘the harassed’)

So ladies, if you face any such unacceptable behaviour don't just keep mum, stand against it. Be brave and confront such men. Do not worry if you have everyone’s support or not. If not all, at least one would. Eventually, there will be more supporters than those who oppose.

 

I know there might be worse scenarios than this, but I wrote this article to awaken the bravery inside every one of you. Never stay quiet. Always stand against it. If so, we can reduce such incidences of harassment in public transport.

 

Thank you.

 

Shehani Dilhara.