Guatemala's women-only buses a hit

by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 11:41 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Initiative is in response to hundreds of complaints by female passengers of sexual harassment on board crammed buses

Where can women in Mexico and Guatemala be assured that they won’t get groped? The answer: on public buses.

In June, Guatemala followed Mexico’s lead when it introduced women-only buses along some busy routes during the morning and evening rush hour in the capital, Guatemala City.

The initiative, in response to hundreds of complaints by female passengers of sexual harassment on board the capital’s crammed buses, has been a hit among women. Boys under the age of 12 who are accompanied by their mothers can ride the buses too. 

Women say the buses, sporting pink ‘Only Women’ signs, provide relief from the unwanted attention of men, and they feel safer.

“It’s been a success. I’m very happy that women feel safer and that this decision is a start to respect human rights,” congresswoman Zury Rios, who spearheaded the campaign, told local press.

Rios, a well-known campaigner for women’s rights, hopes the service will be extended to cover more bus routes. She is also pushing for plans to introduce a female-only taxi service. Neighbouring Mexico already has one.

On Mexico City’s women-only buses, which were launched in 2008, transport is free for pregnant and disabled women and pensioners. The capital also has women-only subway cars.

Some Guatemalans, though, have criticised the initiative.

Guatemalan blogger and university professor, Julio Aziz, says women-only buses are a gimmicky marketing ploy, which doesn’t address the issues behind the high levels of violence against women in the country.

Segregating the sexes, he argues, will not change Guatemala’s ingrained macho culture that discriminates against women.

“The daily abuse against women, rather than avoiding it by segregation, one should look for ways that make a man feel sick from looking at how he acts in the street,” Aziz writes in a blog.

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