Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gender Contests in the Delhi Metro

An exclusive reserved coach for women in every Delhi Metro train was introduced from 2 October 2010 onwards. Children up to 12 years, accompanied by women passengers, were also allowed to travel in the reserved coach. This initiative of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was in response to an increase in the number of women passengers and the significant number of reported cases of sexual harassment.

Indian Journal of Gender Studies
This article suggests that while the shift from having some seats reserved for women in all coaches to the reservation of an entire coach for women in the Metro resolves some of the concerns about women’s safety in the public transport, it also generates new issues. In so far as such reservation is seen as ‘partitioning’ a scarce public resource, that is, space in public transport, along lines of gender, it invites a range of responses from men and women who use this mode of transport and creates new arenas of palpable tension. Significantly, such a move has increased and brought into the open misogyny and hostility towards women, which confirms fears regarding the long-term efficacy of such measures in rendering public spaces more conducive for women.

An article from the Indian Journal of Gender Studies argues that new sites for contestation and reaffirmation of gender relations and ideologies have opened up in the Delhi Metro with coaches reserved for women. First, consequent to the reservation, new ‘liminal’ spaces have arisen in the trains that are sites of gendered confrontations. For example, the passages between the reserved and general coaches as well as the entries and exits to the women’s coach are now spaces with heightened potential for gendered contestations. Second, there are perceptions and interpretations of reservation for women in the Metro as a form of exclusion. Men, whether young, old or disabled, who travel in the coach reserved for women, are a prime example of those who may generally or sporadically feel excluded from space in public transport. However, women who might travel in the general coaches may also feel very unwelcome in what have now been unofficially recast as ‘men’s coaches’. These ‘people out of place’ invite, participate in or are forced into, gendered confrontations, contestations and reaffirmations.

The article presents interesting responses to a semi-structured questionnaire administered to men and women who use the Delhi Metro and also presents small selection of blogs written by men and women passengers to highlight some aspects of this argument. Although there are no easy answers available in this article but has been able to make a case for the need for continuous engagement with the gendered implications of reservation policies in public spaces.

Register Now to read more about the contesting views of Men and women on the issue.