As the sun sets over Karkhana bus stop, M. Kavitha, a student along with other women is seen frantically trying to get into a bus, however, crowded it might be.
A crowded bus, they feel, is safer than the improperly lit bus stop. The scene is repeated at many bus stops in the city, whether it is Secunderabad, Greenlands or Rasoolpura. Most public places in the city such as railway stations and bus stops are, according to many women very gender-unfriendly.
Be it badly lit bus stops or sexual harassment, this is an issue that is not given too much thought, they feel.
“With the number of women working and travelling alone increasing, provisions should be made to ensure that such places are well-lit and safe,” feels Ms. Kavitha.
Street dwellers and alcoholics convert the bus stops to sleeping quarters by night, forcing women to stand away from the bus bay. “After 9 p.m., it gets difficult for us to even stand in bus stops. The bench is often occupied by scamps who pass lewd comments on us,” complains another commuter Vasudha Triveni, who works for an IT firm. For the lone women traveller by local trains, the trip back to her destination is not always a pleasant one.
Take the case of Manjulatha, an English teacher who travels between Borabanda and Secunderabad daily. While the morning trips are eventless, it's often the trip back home that leaves her jittery, she says.
“If you are standing alone on the platform waiting for the train, you are bound to get harassed. Ladies' coaches in MMTS after office hours have hordes of men, who enter just to harass women,” she says.
And where does a woman go if she wants to complain against such men? She asks. “Often the Railway police or guard is on the main platform and not always do you have someone in the vicinity to complain. Having woman guards and constables on the platforms during peak times will be a lot better as they seem more approachable,” Ms. Manjulatha feels.
Many office-going women waiting at bus stops in the vicinity of railway stations and major junctions have often been mistaken to be sex workers, leaving them humiliated and scared.
“I work at a mall and I have to wear a uniform of a skirt and a shirt. Many a times, waiting at bus stops, I have been mistaken to be a sex worker with men passing obnoxious comments. After two, three incidents like that, I changed my work shift,” says a 24-year-old woman.