Masturbators on NYC subway, lewd commenters on buses in Chennai

In two weeks I’ll be presenting on the harassment of women on public transportation at the 3rd International Conference on Women’s Safety in India (and today I’m in Denver at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference to present on making campuses safer).

Harassment on public transportation is a HUGE problem, as shown by countless stories and news stories on here over the years, and today, by two of the stories that came through in my google alert for “sexual harassment.”

In the first, New York Times reporter Karen Zraick wrote about her experiences with men masturbating at her on the subways of New York and she said she didn’t report any of those instances. She has opened up the thread asking readers, “Have you encountered unwanted harassment, groping or flashing? How have you dealt with it?”

It’s a big deal that she shared her stories when so many women feel silenced and that she used her powerful New York Times platform to put this issue out there into public discourse in a way that, say, my blog cannot. Certainly go over there and share your stories and show the general public how many women deal with this!

And I also wanted to note a story from The Times of India. Harassment of women on buses is a big deal throughout India and this article focuses on the problem in Chennai. Police and transit authorities have identified seven bus routes that many women take as the ones where the harassment is the worse. In response, they are sending out undercover police officers to the bus stops and on the bus lines to help crack down on it.Via The Times of India:

“Men of all ages indulge in harassment of women. Some are teenagers, others elderly men. It is a daily ordeal,” said Radhika Kumar, a college student who travels by 29 C. She said MTC should have its own force to deal with such people.

Since such incidents happen in crowded buses, many women said that plying more buses on the identified routes would help. “Route 27H needs many more buses as hundreds of working women and college students take this route,” said Prathibha Francis, a college lecturer.

The police will deploy more personnel at bus stops on these routes, including personnel in plainclothes. “Once the MTC gives us details of the routes, we will deploy more personnel,” said Shakeel Akhter, additional commissioner of police (law and order).

In other places in India, authorities have resorted to creating women-only buses, trains, or even lines for buses, so this is an interesting, new tactic. I hope that penalties for harassment will help prevent it.


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