I remember going to a concert with my sister in the Palacio de los Deportes (Sports Palace, an indoor arena) in the eastern part of Mexico City. On our way, we were both packed like sardines on the bus, when she whispered in my ear someone pinched my hips, and I couldn’t do anything but burst into laughter. And I thought how unfair…women still have a long way to go.
Many other women living in crowded Mexico City have experienced these unpleasant trips in public transportation during rush hours. Physical contact is impossible to avoid and for years this situation has made pick-pocketing, and finding uninvited groping hands all over you, a problem for many riders, especially women, like my sister and me.
Only last year, according to statistics from the Office of Justice of the Federal District, 14 percent of stalkings and rapes against women in Mexico City took place in public buses and those figures don’t fully reflect the whole problem.
Taking care of women’s needs is an important goal of the RTP line of buses director Ariadna Montiel, who in response to multiple complaints about sexual harassment on public transportation started a program that runs buses only for women. These buses can be identified with a pink placard on their side and are intended to cover as many as 15 of the major routes in the city. On the program’s first day, each one of the “pink buses” transported 90 women and by the end of that week they were transporting 200. Many women endorse the idea, and many men do, too, since they feel their daughters, mothers, and wives will be safer.
As sad as it is, could this be a stepping stone for sound long-term solutions? Is this really the best way to deal with the problem? Or instead should we pursue campaigns to make society aware of this problem and develop strategies to stop the behavior?
Claudia Williams, Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellow