In November 2012, the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society, a woman empowerment programme under the Union Ministry of Human Resources, conducted a survey among 5,564 women who regularly travelled on trains in the Thiruvananthapuram Railway Division.

It was, arguably, the first of its kind of survey and opened a window to what women travellers reportedly faced during daily rail journeys.

The survey indicated that crimes against women on trains were on the rise, though only a fraction of the violations was reported.

Of the women commuters surveyed, 467 felt “physically harassed” by pantry-car staff who “created” a rush in the crowded vestibules of passenger coaches.

Stowaways, male ticketless travellers hiding in or lurking near the toilets of women-only coaches, had harassed 767 of them. As many as 54 respondents said railway officials had mistreated them. Many (522) said railway guards had harassed them. As many as 84 women said railway staff rarely helped them. The doors of women-only coaches were difficult to open once closed. Toilets of such coaches were “unclean” and had “no lighting,” according to 330 respondents.

Many (1,335) complained that the compartment reserved for women was “invariably” the last coach on most trains.