IN THE city of Dhaka where incidents of sexual harassment and assault on women on moving buses increasingly make the headlines, workers of public buses coming to cover window glasses, as asked by their owners, with sheets of plastic and paper makes a new threat to the safety of passengers, especially girls and women. The covered bus window glasses block the passenger’s view, stopping them from seeing what happens outside, and the view of others, including traffic personnel and the police, stopping them from seeing what happens inside. This potentially makes an ideal situation for either bus workers or others on the bus, especially at night, to sexually harass women inside moving vehicles. A report published by the Road Safety Foundation in November 2019, as New Age reported on Sunday, shows that about 83 per cent of the women who regularly use public transports are sexually harassed by transport workers on the road. A female apparel worker was killed after ‘being raped’ on a running bus at Dhamrai in Dhaka this January 10. The Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association in February 2018 reported that at least 21 women had been raped or gang-raped in public transports in 13 months till then. The association said that nine of the victims had been gang-raped by drivers of the vehicles and their assistants.
This is enough of a bleak picture and with the glasses of bus windows being covered, blocking a view, this could be a potential danger lurking. Although the move of bus owners and workers of covering the glasses are viewed as illegal, keeping to Section 40(3) of the Road Transport Act 2018 which lays out that any kind of modification of a vehicle in contravention of the technical specification set by the authorities is illegal, almost all of the police wing looking after the road regime, road transport authorities and even the road transport owners’ association seek to say that they were not aware of the happening. And the police and the road transport authorities, consequently, have so far taken no action in this direction. Such a happening also constitutes an offence in view of the city police having ordered, in a set of directives on May 4, 2016, a ban on tinted glasses in vehicles unless the vehicles have tinted glass built-in. An Accident Research Institute researches says that this move of the bus workers is linked to unwarranted incidents of misbehaviour with passengers. New Age report has named about a dozen public transport companies having covered the glass windows of their buses. One company seeks to say that it so does to protect glasses from breaking while another says that it so does to protect passengers from sunlight. But curtains could be easily used if it is all about protecting passengers from sunlight and transparent lamination could be used it is about protecting the glasses.
When bus windows should be large and clear for a better view of people both travelling inside or standing outside and as a means of better protection, bus owners and workers try to paste the window glasses with plastic and paper sheets making them intransparent, which makes the journey of passengers, especially of women, vulnerable to misbehaviour and harassment. The government, by employing all its relevant agencies, must, therefore, make early an intervention to stop this punishable offence in the interest of passenger safety.
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