PLEASE MEND THE GAP is a citizen- led initiative to promote gender equality and commuter safety in public spaces.
Follow these two links for some background:
A few weeks ago, a friend was molested on the Yellow line of the Delhi Metro
A flash mob of citizens got together to protest against the Delhi Metro, claiming that it is promoting a gender divide.
Sign PMTG’s Petition to Chief Minister and DMRC
We believe that a majority of women do not feel safe while travelling in the Delhi Metro. We have spoken to a cross-section of Metro commuters who have shared with us their experiences most of which include instances of verbal and physical harassment mostly faced by women, specifically in the women’s-only compartment. In fact, a few days ago, some of the members of our group who were traveling at night observed that the women’s-only compartment was populated with men who had occupied almost all the seats forcing the women to stand, leaving them with no choice but to actively demand the seats they were entitled to. The men were unapologetic and dismissive. Most shrugged off the women’s protest by claiming falsely that the women’s-only compartment turns general post 9 p.m..
Women who choose to travel in the general compartment are also harassed. There have been many instances where men have told women that they are not welcome in this compartment and should use the compartment reserved for them. This attitude has become so deeply entrenched in commuters’ mindsets that most accidentally refer to the general compartment as the ‘men’s compartment’. There have been times when authorities have driven out men from the women’s-only compartments, but without having imposed any fine whatsoever…
The situation needs to change. It is the duty of the State and the DMRC to spearhead this change.
Read the full petition and sign.
39 thoughts on “Make Delhi Metro safe for women! Please Mend The Gap”
The link to the petition doesn’t seem to work.
Thanks Avi. Corrected now.
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Scrap the Ladies coupe altogether. We need to understand the fabric of the Indian society.
Intermingling of the sexes provides with a lower crime rate.
Harassment has to stop, not only in the ladies coach, but also n EVERY coach. Just by making a separate coach reserved for women makes them more conspicuous, identifiable and vulnerable.
Let everyone mingle. That’s the way to evolve the society.
Bhavya: have you tried entering a ‘general’ coach full of men packed like sardines in a can? If you haven’t, don’t speak down to the women who choose the ladies coach.
Bring back the female cops with guns in the Metro.
Look, it is good to make the public riding experience an secure one for everyone especially women, but at the same time there is also a neccessity that while implementing laws and order in this regard they must be applied with an human touch, so that the rights of other half a portion must also not be violated… A woman can travel in any bogy of delhi metro , but when it comes for a male counterpart why he considered as an untouchable by delhi metro staff when he enters the first-reserved bogy in a hurry or because of some extraordinory conditions… I wish to sign this petetion but will only sign the one when assured that our rights shall not be violated in the wake of such ”women friendly laws”…
I have been a regular user of the Delhi metro since the year 2006 and I and most of my women friends who use it have found it extremely safe despite it being jampacked especially during rush hours.
In my experience the introduction of the Ladies compartment and the segregation that it has encouraged in fact has been counterproductive to creating a safe environment in the Metro.
It is not unusual to find the men packed like sardines in the other compartments and nearly spilling into the ladies coupe while the women stand in much greater comfort. It has resulted in greater hostility between male and female passengers. The aggressive attitude of some of the women who use the Metro especially towards lower middle class men who may accidentally or otherwise enter the reserved compartment (despite there being plenty of free seats and the general compartments being packed) is quite disturbing to watch.
I would tend to agree with Bhavya that encouraging intermingling is a better way to ensure cooperation, congeniality and safety of women in the Metro.
Kindly allow me to narrate e few personal experiences. Before that I would like to make clear that Metro is a blessing to people who travel in public transport and I am great ful to the DMRC for doing such a splendid job. But the ladies coach needs more guards and more CISF personnels.
I am a very frequent traveler of the Metro and the attitude of men is simply, if I may use the word disgusting. They have utter disrespect for the ladies compartment. The rebel that I am, I have engaged myself in multiple fights since October (the time since a separate ladies coach was introduced). If I ask men to move from the ladies coach, pat comes the reply ” I wont, what can you do?” and when I tell them they can be fined pat comes the reply again “I am ready to pay Rs.400 as fine, who cares about the Rs.200 fine. Do what you want.” I have learnt abuses that I never knew existed. Thanx to my experience in the Metro. But none the less I have always been able to chase them away. I would like to share this with all of you that whenever you face any trouble with men in the ladies coach, knock the driver’s gate and ask him to call security at the next station. That is a provision made by the DMRC.
Although I no more prefer to enter the general coach, it is equally true that whenever I have (in a case of extreme hurry) I have been harassed. When I ask men to vacate the ladies seat in the general coach, I have heard similar replies what Nivedita has observed. “Go to the ladies coach, this is a “men’s” coach.” Men quickly group up against the lone passenger to chase her away to the first compartment.
Post 9 pm it does not even look like there ever existed a ladies coach in the Metro. It is filled with men and so many that one does not dare to even say something lest you become the vent of everybody’s wrath. I tried getting a seat for my younger sister (who co coincidently happen to be sick that day ) and men refused to vacate. As usual I had to indulge in a huge fight to get her a seat.
The only solution to this problem is the deployment of more CISF personnels in the ladies coach from morning till the time Metro runs. Even if men are allowed to enter the ladies coach say after 10.30 pm, the security must ensure that they vacate the seats if there are women.
I appreciate the metro for the level of cleanliness and ways it has made our lives easier but it sure needs to look into this problem which is growing day by day.
Nivedita the Link still does not work. Please check.
Perhaps that was a momentary glitch? I went through it just now all the way to “View signatures without signing”.
If it’s a problem that crops up only at the point you actually sign, then PMTG should know. Please inform Aswathy at http://www.facebook.com/MendNow
I beg to differ. I have been travelling regularly by the Gurgaon metro for the past 9 months. I have come back home as late as 9:30-10pm and found it to be the safest mode of transport. The only good thing about the women’s compartment is that it is a bit less crowded than the general compartment. Otherwise, I prefer the general to the women’s for a number of reasons: (a) women are far more unwilling to share space even if there is enough space for one more person to sit; (b) a lot of middle aged women have an entitlement mentality – if no seats are available they force some younger looking and docile person to vacate the seat or try to squeeze their fat butts into a quater inch space; (c) they are far more prone to fighting with each other or some hapless man (especially from a lower economic strata) who may have got into the women’s compartment by mistake; and (d) there are far too many noisy and unruly children in the women’s compartment who occupy seat space instead of sitting on their mother’s laps and bothering anybody having the misfortune of sitting beside them. My experiences in the general compartment has been pretty positive but then I don’t insist that men vacate seats for me just because I am a woman nor do I shout harassment at every man who may have accidentally brushed against me because of the crowded compartment (I have grown up in Delhi so I am very much aware of the level of harassment women face in other modes of transport). Its actually far easier to get a seat in the general compartment because if a seat gets empty and if a man is standing beside me (with equal right to the seat), he generally offers it to me (never has happened to me in the ladies compartment). I have neither been groped or harassed in the metro yet (touchwood)…actually I have…not by men but the women at the security booth who feel you up in an extremely intrusive manner. So please lay off the metro (the only safe, clean and cheap mode of transport) and take on buses and autos if you want.
I wish all the women have same thinking as you.
what nivedita menon and few others have observed is true to some extent but limited. I have been travelling in metro since last 8 yeras. Commuting to school..then college..now office and so many other places. I have never encountered any problems ever. Metro is the safest mode of travelling. No denial that theer can be certain instances when ladies have faced problems, but guards and drivers are just a press of button away. Late night, like after 9-10 the ladies compartment is full of men…yes it is, but then there are hardly any ladies travelling…and whenever I have travelled late night afetr the introduction of ladies compartment I have observed that gurads and metro officals do come on regular checks and ask the male travellers to go in the next coach…many male travellers oppsoe saying that because the compartment is empty its ok for them to sit or stand here..but they are still asked to vacate ladies coach. All said, I don’t deny that there can be problem but that is not the general rule.
It is shocking that instead of targetting the real perpetrators of harassment (people travelling in buses and auto drivers), Nivedita and other like her have trained their guns on the best mode of travel in Delhi i.e. the metro. It is mostly safe (especially if you compare it to other available modes of public transport), clean, fast and efficient. Reserving one compartment for women is not segregation, it is common sense given the realities of India. Other compartments are not barred for women nor are they the unsafe space as is being made out by this post. What is it with you Left types that anything that is run well and efficiently is hated by you?? If you have the guts go after buses and autos and taxis!!! I know you won’t (too scared of the trade unions)!
just because autos n taxis n buses have trade unions and you don’t want to run after them does not mean that any1 can do anything in the metro and you will just swallow it down the throat… be the change you want to see …
I’m just very surprised at the hostile tone adopted by Preeti and Yamini towards this campaign to make the Metro safe for women, complete with vituperatives about ‘lefty types’. Preeti in addition, is hostile to women in general, it appears. The campaign is NOT to shut down the Metro, to make it dirtier, to forcibly stop women from travelling with the more civilized men in the general compartments rather than with selfish women “with fat butts” and “noisy and unruly children” etc etc, as you apparently seem to think. (In fact I think there should be a rule that if children are travelling with a male parent, they must travel in the general compartment with all those generous wonderful men and the slim, civilized women who ‘never shout harassment’ rather than with their mothers. Why should children have to be in the women’s compartment even if both parents are on the Metro?)
This campaign has grown out of the actual experiences of many hundreds of other women who travel in the Metro, who have found it unsafe, and want the government to take steps to make it safer. (And this may be a good place to clarify also that while I am certainly a lefty, and I do support the campaign, and posted its petition on kafila, I am not one of the organizers, many of whom, for all I know, may be quite shocked to hear themselves described as “lefty”!). If you have never suffered harassment on the Metro, you’re welcome to say so, but the rage you display towards other women whose experiences have been different , and the disdain you, Preeti, show towards women in general who live tougher lives than you (not being gymmed out with slim butts, having all those awful children to look after instead of leaving them with a maid – because their fathers certainly will not look after them), makes me understand all over again how wonderfully patriarchy makes allies of women who internalize its misogyny.
I think there is room for debate about whether the safety of women is best ensured by separate women’s compartments or by more regular checks on all compartments by Metro staff, and effective and immediate measures to punish harassers. Sometimes I feel convinced of one, sometimes of the other, and both sides have very convincing arguments. But I think a campaign that highlights this issue is long overdue, and I am glad it’s happening.
No nivedita I have no “disdain” for anyone who have tougher lives than I do (although I have no clue on what basis you decided that I don’t have a tough life)! The ones who actually have “tougher” lives have slim butts because they have to work their asses off and they actually dont have a sense of entitlement. If you actually travelled by the metro you would definitely meet the type of ladies I am talking about who order younger/less aggressive looking women around, making them vacate seats for no reason than to plonk themselves on it. Not because they can’t stand but they see it as an entitlement for being middle aged or women if they are in the general compartment! I am sorry I have absolutely no sympathy for them. The same goes when they try to sqeeze in a tiny sliver of space (that’s what I was referring to…not showing disdain for the horizontally gifted!!). And I have no objection to anyone’s right to bring their children as long as they are paying for their fare. However, I object when my freedom to sit in peace is shattered because some of the women think that whatever kids do is fine and everything should be tolerated just because they are kids. So you have these kids running up and down the train, shrieking, throwing all kinds of food items on the metro floor which is generally spic and span while the mother just looks the other way. I have seen kids pooping and peeing inside the metro too. So I am sorry if it offends your sensibilities and prejudices but these are my lived experiences of the metro and as valid as anybody else’s. Please don’t impute silly motives such as buying into patriarchy since you do not know me from adam. If your idea of being a liberated person is to foment a sense of entitlement among women metro travellers, then I am not “liberated”. I consider myself far more liberated than any of you because I don’t want special treatment just because I am a “woman”. You may see it as a physical handicap, I do not.
Priti, congratulations on successfully internalising every single stereotype that exists in society; allow me to state a few:
1. middle-aged fat-butted women are annoying (your mother I presume is slim-butted, and has a slightly higher entitlement to a seat).
The idea that younger women in good health should give up their seats to older women anyway (regardless of how it is demanded) is so, like, twentieth century no? have you imagined Priti, that being middle-aged and fat butted and female is such a liability in our slim-butted, youth-preferring, still-patriarchal times that you have jumped quickly to distance yourself from that species? you are thanking your lucky stars that phew, thank god, our of three disabilities I have only one (being female) and since I’m young (and probably middle or upper class) I can still see it as an advantage…
2. women demand special treatment (separate seats/compartments) because they are weak/dishonest/love freebies. Further, being ‘liberated’ means not being dependent on anything from a society which, in the 21st century, has still not ensured that public travel is a safe and pleasant experience for women.
Priti, all the best with travelling in the general compartments. If you do face harassment, do swallow it silently, since that experience would have come out of your making a choice as an independent, rational being, and hence, by your own logic, is part of feeling liberated.
3. women are somewhat shady and untrustworthy characters in general, prone to shouting ‘harassment’ at the drop of a hat when somebody brushes against them accidentally in a crowded space. this stereotype is very interesting actually, because it has a further assumption hidden inside it – that women by and large have nothing better to do than hold society hostage to their hysterical illusions.
Wow, I’m feeling suffocated in a quite nineteenth-century way here, forget twentieth century.
4. undeserved entitlements must not be ‘fomented’. society is a harsh, punitive space where it is to use Thomas Hobbes’s words, a war of all unto all, and everybody better well buckle down and earn their deserts. the idea that you could be minimally nice or supportive to a person because in general (not on that particular occasion necessarily) they belong to a species that gets a raw deal in life, is so, like old-fashioned MAN! let precious social resources not be wasted on these annoying fat-butted, middle-aged, child-carrying women.
don’t forget, these arguments you’re making were being made against pregnancy and maternity benefits till recently, and continue to be made in many parts of the world. oh wait, silly me, you probably don’t support maternity benefits, right? but you probably don’t need to, since you have so successfully declared your loyalties with the current social structures and will probably be well-adjusted and earn well enough to have a full time maid if and when you get pregnant. then all these conflicts can be her (the maid’s) headache – how to work when pregnant, how to keep one’s job when one’s baby is two weeks old and requires to be breastfed every two hours, where do I find a creche or grandparent to take care of her when she gets older, etc etc. Terribly annoying, feminine types of issues…
5. this stereotype is the most amusing/confounding of all, so I saved it for the last. there is a clear public hierarchy of ills, so if the metro is much much safer than alternate forms of transport (I don’t disagree at all, by the way), then YOU (social activists, academics, left-leaning types) must ‘lay off’ criticising it. why, Priti? why should critique be relative and not absolute? why should the harassment clearly faced by women in the metro not be seen as part of a continuum of a mode of sexual harassment widely prevalent in public transport? what are you worried about? that the powers-that-be, who have so graciously given us this blessing called the metro will get so offended by our critique that they will withdraw this blessing too? I’m sorry, the state is not my daddy, and it does not tell me that my experience of sexual harassment should be continually measured on a scale in order to determine it’s validity.
Let me give you my own experience with the women’s compartment in Delhi metro – yes, I take it regularly, and most often I travel in the women’s compartment because it’s a massive relief from having to worry about the possibility of harassment. you must be familiar with that possibility, Priti, you know, the one that plays like an old record on low volume at the back of your mind? I am equally supportive of women travelling in the general compartment, of course. I agree with you that class comes into play when a middle aged upper class or middle class woman tells a man to get off a seat. But there are also countless occasions when even the class and age of a women does not save her from harassment. I also agree that there are hundreds of little children (especially boys, which is interesting, no?) being brought up to think that running all over a public space is perfectly fine. But it is ninety times out of hundred the case that bringing children up and taking them on public transport is a mother’s job, not a father’s. So they are much more vulnerable to the visibility that comes from it.
anyway, one day, a young woman – clearly from a small town from the way she was dressed, and newly married, got into the women’s compartment alone. She was clearly in distress from the minute she got in, and within a few minutes of the train’s moving, began to look very ill, and suddenly retched and threw up all over herself and her neighbour. the compartment at that time was full of young women, of all classes and persuasions of course. NOT ONE person moved to help her; everybody made disgusted faces and moved away while this girl was looking around in misery. I had some toilet paper rolls in my bag and gave it to her and helped her clean up. This is not about me – I’m not claiming to be the most helpful person on the planet. What makes me ill is the thought that none of the other younger women thought it fit to help this girl. I’m just worried you will also ask: if she was ill why did she get on the train? Do we want to live in this way, when social sympathy and generosity are so tightly measured and doled out? No wonder the government is saying rupees twenty a day is enough to be declared non-poor. sorry, you don’t see the connection between this and what you said, do you?
I am not going to bother to reply to your ideologically coloured rants imputing random motives to any woman who may not be approving of every action/cause/movement of the “sisterhood”. However, a similar incident to what you related happened once when I was travelling too (with very different reactions). A woman was sitting in the women’s compartment while her husband was standing at the edge of the general compartment (lower middle class). Suddenly she threw up on the metro’s floor. Immediately people offered her water, when her husband came let him sit beside her and I was most impressed by the metro staff. At the next station, the safai wala came and cleaned up the vomit, another metro staff came and asked if she would like a wheelchair (she refused because they were going to get off in the next station anyways). Another time, a young girl fainted suddenly. She was immediately helped to a seat and revived. That’s why I have huge problems with sweeping generalisations made by these kinds of “causes”. Most of you have acknowledged that metro is by far the safest mode of transport, nothwithstanding stray incidents of harassment. So why not start the movement where the problem is far more acute such as the Delhi buses is my question. The fact that nobody is asking these pertinent questions but making random accusations at me of being co-opted into the “patriarchy” is very troubling to say the least. Is it because it won’t get you enough publicity with the elite women who generally do not travel in buses but travel in the metro???
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
– Lincoln (etc.)
But no one has still satisfactorily given an answer to my question: Why are you not bothered with the harassment in buses which is much more used as a mode of transport than the metro? Is it because “people like you” i.e. middle class, well off women avoid buses (mainly because of its lack of safety) but travel by metro so the “cause” would resonate more with them and get you the publicity you want?
For the harassment there, when women ‘like me’ get onto these buses we ensure the men vacate the seats reserved for ladies and we do not take any verbal or physical abuse lying down in such situations. Am not sure what you mean by safety because the train is mostly underground and closed, it is easier to jump off the bus in times of emergency and attract attention by making noise when there’s trouble. Am not sure you can do that inside the tunnel where you are surrounded by a few hundred men and you cannot moved because it is a closed space.
With the coming of the low floor buses more and more people, ‘like me’ who are not ‘upper middle class’ or even ‘middle class’ are choosing the bus over the train. I disagree with most of what you say for the following reasons.
1. I take the bus whenever it is convenient to where I need to go or the metro if that route is better.
2. A big reason for taking the metro is because in this heat the air conditioning is a blessing and the red buses are still less in number and as it is possible to keep the door open for longer the air conditioning doesn’t really work.
3. The metro even if it gets stuck will only delay by 5-10 minutes; only in really rare cases does it exceed that time limit.
4. It is easy to pick up people who are unfamiliar with a place from the concerned metro station.
I think you need to rethink your reasons before you call this a publicity stunt because I think yours is clearly failing…
To all who are for and against the women’s compartment: Although I am one of the people involved in the framing and circulation of the petition and a member of the Please Mend the Gap collective, I too would vouch for a non-segregated space. But sadly, with the people that we have on our part of the world, it’s a little too difficult to imagine that kind of sharing becoming a reality in the near future. And hence, we need the segregated space, merely to feel safer!
No one is denying the fact that the metro is the safest mode of public transportation available in Delhi, and we all agree that the Metro staff is doing a great job in maintaining it this efficient fashion. But surely there are many unpleasant experiences that women have encountered while traveling in the metro. All we are asking is that these issues be addressed and taken care of duly. We are vouching for a system that is foolproof to the core.
Personally, I am someone who travel in the bus too quite often and know that buses are much more unsafe than the metro. Actions should be taken to make them better too. We see the metro as the starting point of such activities.
At the end of it, I think we all would agree if I were to say that what we need is a safe, comfortable, carefree space to walk around. Let’s work towards that!
On the fourth of April, two of my friends and I had an experience which leads me to believe there is urgent need to look into the safety of women traveling at night by the metro. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/articlelist/784865811.cms
The version that the Times of India printed sadly was also tainted written by someone who had done zero research as a journalist before writing a story. The journalist claims things which were never discussed and there are several discrepancies in the story she tells. I request ‘ignorant women’ to travel in the metro post 10 in the night and reaffirm their faith in the male gentry!
There is a reason why the Calcutta metro despite running for donkey’s years still does not have a ladies coach! And similarly in Bombay no men dare get into the ladies compartments…
Barkha, the link you have given opens on to a general TOI page. Can you give the link to the specific piece you are talking about?
Presumably this is what Barkha had in mind.
Women-only compartments are a tricky issue and my own feelings are very mixed. Partly that is because the issues are not straightforward either. Yes, there is sexual harassment. But I suspect there are at least some women who feel “uncomfortable” either standing or sitting next to a male. It is many years ago but I still remember being asked by a bus conductor on a long distance journey in Tamil Nadu to move from my window seat to accommodate a woman who didn’t want to sit next to any other male other than her husband. As a teenager, I resented the request but had to give way. I suspect such attitudes are still present in our society. And it is useful to remember that the metro is used by men and women of all strata, not just us upper middle class types. Surely in the “long run” we want to move to a society where there will be no need for a women’s only coach. But I guess we will continue to need it for a long time.
On a separate note, we should also work towards improving some other aspects of metro usage. Like, for instance, allowing passengers to get down before boarding.
The article. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-04-06/delhi/29388239_1_chawri-bazar-station-control-room-compartment
A video against sexual harassment. Slutwalk Delhi 2011.
I have some solutions to this problem.
1. Station policemen outside the women’s compartment at each station. They can peek into the train and see if there are men inside. If there are, they can quickly signal to the driver to keep the doors open so that they can get the men out.
2. Fines should be strict. Yes, I know it is India and people can’t pay for anything. But implement a fine system where the offender produces some identity and then their name is noted down as well as a photograph taken. I am being a bit lenient with my proposed fines because I am used to a high fine structure due to living in Hong Kong (Smoking incurs a Rs. 30000 fine and littering incurs a Rs. 9500 fine. 1st offence: Rs. 500. 2nd offence: Rs. 2000. 3rd offence: Rs. 5000. 4th offence: Rs. 8000 + 1 month imprisonment. If people are unable to pay such high fines which are being enforced, they will just stop doing it.
P.S.: I personally believe that there should NOT be a women’s compartment because it is an act of segregation (non-integration in society) and discrimination towards men on the basis of sex. But, I recognise the need and requirement for such a compartment in India and until people’s mindset or ways change, the enforcement of these rules should continue.
I forgot to mention, I also believe that DMRC should retrofit the front compartment with a locked door stopping men entering through the train. If they do this and implement the suggestions I have made, men will not be able to enter the women’s compartment through other compartments of the train and the train doors of the women’s compartment (as there will be a policeman guarding the women’s compartment.
However, having said that and with all fairness to the men, women should have NO RIGHT to demand seats which have been taken by men on the other compartments. If the seat is not occupied, they may sit down on those seats. But they cannot force men off the seats on the basis that they are women. However, pregnant women should be given seats upon request as well as disabled, elderly and women with infants.
Another thing that could be done to further raise awarness of the issue could be to stick posters on the Delhi Metro women’s compartment doors saying “women only and children up to the age of 12”. If my idea that they can retrofit doors inside the train is implemented, they can stick these posters there to so that a conscious reminder is made to the ridership.
i think that the fines should be very very high …and these should be IMPLEMENTED …in United states if u do anything …the cop isn’t bothered…because he fines u so big that u will not be able to give it for months.. years..( sometimes it takes lifetime too )…so for this reason people are very afraid of being fined… !….so they avoid doing things against the rules..