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Is The Ladies Compartment A Symbol Of Progress Or Patriarchy?

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By Suhasini Patni:

Ladies Compartment In Delhi Metro

I walk into the metro station. It is crowded as usual; men swarming in and out; women with small children pushing everyone in their way; families trying to leave with only one paid token and sympathetic security guards letting them pass despite this transgression. The metro is the most luxurious form of public transport. It is also the one place where people seem to forget class and caste barriers. Everyone is entitled to a seat. Every compartment has an air conditioner. And there is no extra payment for any of this. It’s democratic. It’s equal.

There is one distinction, though. It is the last compartment of every Delhi Metro, which is reserved for women. The platform for this has huge pink stickers designating the place as a safe and free zone for women with posters all around boasting that 99% of Delhi men do not come inside the ladies compartment. And if they ever do, there will be badass female guards pushing them all away.

On this crowded day, I think the ladies compartment is a form of justice. This is what women need; a place where they are safe from any men with ill intentions of groping them or any men eyeing them up and down till they feel like they have been undressed in someone else’s brains.

But what twisted form of justice is this? Do we need to shield ourselves from men? Hideaway our bodies as if they are something to be ashamed of? I sit down on a seat in the ladies compartment. Automatically, I know that every woman here is looking out for each other. We may be from different backgrounds, but we’ll stick together if a man comes in. The girl next to me tries to shove my bra strap inside my sleeveless t-shirt. “Jab aap bahaar nikle toh kisiko dikh na jaye,” she says (When you go out of here, no one must see your bra strap). I am too shocked to stop her. I know her intentions are not wrong. She is just trying to protect me. This is her showing her solidarity.

What is she trying to protect me from? What am I a victim of? The public view? The eyes in the general compartment? Real life where there is no segregation between men and women? The ladies compartment is not the only place where a woman may wear crop tops and skirts and show their bra straps without feeling embarrassed. All my life I have identified myself as a feminist. By sitting in the ladies compartment, enjoying this unrealistic segregation, am I setting back feminists by years? Am I defeating all the progress they have tried to make? Since when are they a “they” and I not a part of them?

The ladies compartment becomes the manifestation of all that is wrong in society. It is the same thing as telling your daughter to wear ‘respectable’ clothing but not telling your son that it is wrong to misbehave with women. It stems from good intentions too but in the end is it leading to more segregations? The ladies compartment is not meant to incorporate women into society. It is not a symbol of progress but of patriarchy, where it is better to tell women to hide than to tell men to keep their eyes and hands to themselves. In fact, the general compartment too has seats reserved for women, along with for the physically disabled and senior citizens. Are we in the same category? Do we need reserved seats even in the general compartment because we are considered the weaker sex? Or is this some twisted form of justice too?

Yes, all the women stand together in their own safe compartment. But progress will come once we stand together outside our safe zone and fight against inequality. It is no longer a matter of convenience.

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  1. The Hulk

    Reserved seats for women in metros and specially on DTC buses speaks volumes about how men are treated like trash in India. Even those seats which are not reserved are occupied shamelessly by women, and even after all the atrocities on men, women have the audacity to ask men to leave their seats for them. When blacks were shamed to leave their seats for whites, we called it slavery. When men are forced to leave seats for women, we call it politeness.

  2. Jigsaw

    Civilisation has been built on the bodies of dead men. Men’s mutilated bodies returned in coffins, men’s blood sprayed on battlefields, men’s scattered limbs, men in torture chambers, men held as prisoners of war, men freedom fighters etc. It is men who have suffered throughout history and continue to do so, to protect women.

  3. Vikram

    If you are so worried about men keeping their eyes to themselves, then I suggest you do not step outside of your home. Or wear a burqa everytime you make a public appearance.

    As long as a man has not made any physical gesture / movement towards you, how can you be so sure whether he has mentally undressed you or not. Even if he has, who are you to decide what he thinks of and what he does not. Who are you to decide where he looks at and where he does not.

    There is a reason even staring at someone is not unlawful. Touching / groping / whistling etc may be proved to be unlawful and I agree with you on that, but staring isn’t, can’t be and shouldn’t be.

    In other words, you can decide where to go but the guy cannot decide where to look ?
    You can decide what to wear but the guy cannot decide what to think ?
    You can decide whether you are wearing a dress to show off or not but a guy cannot decide whether to fantasize about a woman or not ?

    Being a feminist is fine. But by making such statements, you look as idiotic as the “perverted” guys look to you.

  4. Male

    everything from the mobile phones, web platforms, metro, metro bolts etc etc have to be thought out and built by men. u think men are just happy plying underneath buses and fancy cars. that women compartment is always free and men ones are overcrowded. why do u ppl still stand at other compartments? whats wrong in wearing a decent dress. how do u justify wearing tight jeans in delhi summer? no common sense at all. everything has to be a point. no work for u and no work for me reading this. am an OC category man. do u know what that means? i bet u dont even the difference between females and women

  5. TheVisibleGardener

    Very interesting article. The barriers meant for protection very easily become barriers leading to alienation.

  6. Spider-Man

    Watch the movie ‘Pyar Ka Punchnama’ (both parts).

  7. Monistaf

    I have always thought that feminism is about gender “equality”, at least based on its dictionary definition. Having special compartments reserved for women is privilege, not equality, just like having quotas in parliament, corporate boards, universities, law enforcement etc. etc.
    If you want equal rights, you must accept equal responsibilities. Anything else is privilege. A good example is the recent US law that opens all combat positions to women, but they do not have the obligation to register for the draft that is mandatory for all men. In India, especially
    in family law, women have more than equal rights, which is privilege, not equality. Alimony can only be paid by the husband to the wife, only the wife has rights on a husbands property, not the other way around, only a wife can get unconditional divorce, a man has to get consent
    from his wife and too many more to list. The reserved compartment is an extension of the many privileges that women enjoy today in India, in the name of fighting for “equal” rights. Equality, must, obviously mean something different to the feminists not just in India, but everywhere.
    It is clearly an ideology that discredits the humanity of men, diminishes their pain, while perpetuating and exaggerating the victim status of women.

  8. Truth

    Men having to vacate seats for women in buses and public spaces speaks volumes of how theories on feminism and equality are pure nonsense.

  9. B

    If there was a ‘gents compartment’ and reserved seats for men in the general compartments, feminists would go berserk with protests and banners and slogans, screaming misogyny and demanding equality, but since the injustice is perpetrated against men no one raises an eyebrow.

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