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#BusLoBharosa, road to women safety

Hyderabad: Women face stalking and different sorts of harassment, including sexual, in public places with many turning a blind eye to such instances. In public transportation like buses, these instances are always brushed under the carpet and seen as a matter-of-fact thing.

Now, four women from Hyderabad are in the process of changing this scenario and want to bring not just legal, but also behavioural change among citizens. They are working on a war-footing to stop instances of sexual harassment of all kinds on buses.

The campaign called #BusLoBharosa (translates to Trust in the Bus) is being spearheaded by Kaumudi Nagaraju, Hima Bindu, Jaina and Nikhitha. These four women met during their fellowship by WomComMatters called Awaaz-e-Telangana and discussed the different hurdles women face on a day-to-day basis.

“Our theme at the fellowship was gender-based violence and while discussing the topic, we realised that we all had similar experiences of harassment while travelling in a bus. So, we thought why not devise a mechanism that brings a change in the thinking process of the perpetrators,” says Hima Bindu, campaign lead at BLB.

As part of BLB, the team, apart from running a signature campaign on change.org, is also requesting the TSRTC to look at installing announcement systems and laminated posters which talk about what constitutes sexual harassment and what kind of legal mechanism is available to report such cases. The team has conducted focus group discussions (FGD), spoke to many female bus conductors, female students, and also regular male travellers to understand the severity of the situation.

“During the FGDs, we also came to know that many women travellers either choose to ignore or remain silent or in some cases are not even aware of what has happened to them that constitutes to be sexual harassment. When they started speaking to us, they recalled some incidents and then realised that they had been sexually harassed,” says Kaumudi, who also runs an NGO called Learning Space Foundation in Hyderabad.

Jaina and Nikhitha quickly agree to this and also add that there have been instances where women choose to not travel by public transport due to the fear of sexual harassment. The initiative was started in January last year and in March, the petition was put up. So far, it has got 1,700 signatures. The team has also conducted awareness programmes in Osmania University and other colleges and is in the process of setting up a meeting with TSRTC vice-chairman and MD VC Sajjanar.

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