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Woman seat reservations in public transport: Did we fail to understand?

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Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash

Few weeks ago, as most of the population of Kathmandu does, I also was travelling using a public vehicle. My destination being Kalanki, I got on the bus on Balkot-Kalanki route. As I struggled my way into the bus, I saw an unusual reservation provided on the bus. The bus has provision for “mother-of-an-infant” seat reservation for two. According to the law, public transport should have at least two seat reservations for women, one for elderly, and four seats for differently-abled. I looked around in surprise as the “mother-of-an-infant” reservation was a very new concept to me. I managed my way deep into the crowded bus alley and was still trying to make something out of that reservation. As usual, the bus was brim packed and few young ladies were having a hard time standing.

A survey conducted in 2013 by the World Bank group with Australian aid pointed out that 33% of woman felt personal insecurities in public transport. The survey also noted 26% of the entire survey of women aged 19-35 years had had direct experience of inappropriate touching on public transport in the year 2012. The number itself is disappointing but the condition has not improved. The condition has worsened since the survey has been conducted. Those aren’t the only concern to women on public vehicle. Biologically, most women are fragile and more susceptible to fatigue and fainting. Also, statistically, more female are found to be suffering from arthritis. Also, all women need to experience menstruation once a month and that also comes with different short-term problems. Not forgetting, pregnancy also puts woman in a position where she can’t manage to stand in such crowded vehicles.

Considering all these factors as an inevitable problem, mostly exclusive to women, female seat reservation seemed to be justified. But is that all that concerns to a society? If woman seat reservation was really effective solving the problem, why did the “Kalanki-Balkot” route felt the necessity to explicitly define seat for “mother-of-an-infant”? That should have come under the woman seat reservation and should have managed the problem. Did we fail to understand the reservation?

The need for female seat reservation in public vehicle clearly shows the problem is not just about how difficult public transportation is but how undisciplined and immoral our society is. Female seat was allocated for women in need. But somehow those who need it are still struggling as they cannot voice their need and we don’t have the morality to acknowledge something that directly won’t affect us. Not only that, but the seat reservation has brought about general air of mistrust between the genders. As long as there is provision for female seat reservation on a fully packed bus, no “male” on the bus feel obliged to give up their seat for a female in actually need.

The segregation of seat was supposed to be like, female seat reserved and rest of the seats are general where any gender will have equal rights. But the misunderstood reservation has made it so that as long as the female seat is empty, any woman to climb the bus should occupy only that seat just so another  seat remains empty for a “male”. That wasn’t the original purpose of the seat, I reckon. I have barely seen a person having a second thought before taking up the elderly reserved, or differently-abled reserved. The reservation meant the same to all categories but the fact that female reservation is taken as an act of gender inclusion more than the solution to the problem of woman difficulties in travel goes out and shows the ignorance prevailing in the society.

When a person gets on a bus and sees two females seating on the woman reserved seat, we assume that our responsibility towards any other female to climb the bus has ended. If a public vehicle has just two seats where woman can have comfortable journey without the fear of being harassed and misbehaved, we failed as a society. The reservation is provided to give woman in need an easier travel but the real solution for all woman would be; a society where all the people in the vehicle recognize the need of another and is willing to help irrespective of their gender.

Next time when you see a woman with an infant standing in the bus, don’t wait for the girl in woman seat to stand. Have an experience to share with us? Tell us in the comment.

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Opinion

If I get Corona, I will NOT blame the government

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Image via Ranjit Samit

After a momentary relief, Nepal is again in panic mode with rapidly rising corona cases for which the healthcare system is not equipped to handle the cases. This has been a great concern and reason to panic for all. Some are all prepared to blame the Oli-led government for all this mess but I am not in the mood to blame the government this time, and rather introspect and retrospect everything.

By scapegoating Oli administration alone, we are losing the greatest opportunity of our time to evolve to better and wiser version

Corona pandemic has only exposed our systemic failure, our collective stupidity, our shortsightedness, which we were unable to realize pre-corona. Whatever is happening now isn’t just the result of incompetency of Oli administration, so it will be unfair to pass all the blames to them. Instead, we all need to share the blames.

Blame public

Binodbikash Simkhada, a healthcare worker in UK, has posted this on his Facebook wall:

That pretty much explains where do we, the public from Nepal, stand when it comes to taking an individual responsibility and precautionary measures in individual level. We can come up with hundreds of defending reasons for gathering in Jatra, functions; roaming around without mask, rushing in busy streets. Whatever the reasons be, no one to be blamed but ourselves if we catch Corona.

And here we are, dealing with rapidly-spreading pandemic.

BLAME FROM RANAS TO REPUBLICS

Agree that citizens from developed countries might have a luxury of living with precautionary measures which we don’t have as that would challenge our daily livelihoods but again Oli administration alone is not to be blamed for that but many governments from past, whose collective failures have stopped us from prospering, growing, building a social security net. In 250 years, we as a country were too arrogant and self obsessed with our own opinion-based ideologies that we were lost in experimenting stupid and failed governing practices, that we only ended up becoming more poorer, more vulnerable. We would not like what is working in West, we would not like what is working in India or China. We were only too overconfidence with “Nepal suhaudo.” From Ranas to BP to Mahendra to Girija to even Republics, centuries lost in search of “Nepal Suhaudo” system.

And here we are paying the price for all those failed practices, experiments, ideologies, which if benefited anyone, then only those close to power.

BLAME THE RULING CLASS

Our single hospital can’t even accommodate 500 patients at a time, forget about intensive cares for mass. Let’s question ourselves, how did we lack this behind? What stopped us from producing doctors? What stopped us from bringing foreign investments? What stopped us from creating a job market for doctors from the around the world? Sole blame goes to those in power and close to power, who exploited this country and system to milk it only for themselves stopping everyone else in the name of nationalism and socialism.

And, here we are forced to get cure from handful of hospitals and doctors and the ecosystem that are owned by the ruling class from past and present.

BLAME MYSELF

I am part of the public, with “hya chalcha” attitude, “j parla parla” irresponsible behavior, “nothing will happen” ignorant.

I am part of the problem that despite being privileged enough to raise voice, talk awareness, literate enough to read and write, I am choosing the path of “let it be.”

To conclude

We have become a country of broiler chicken. A single virus outbreak can kill most of us, and those who survive too will be sold out as migrant workers. In between, we are left on our own fate. How did we end up becoming such country? Did we become this in last 3 years, that we otherwise were super awesome?

This pandemic is in a way blessing in disguise to realize our weaknesses and mistakes from past because present is nothing but the consequences of past actions and decisions.

If present is terribly bad, you must go back to the past to learn the lesson and not indulge around in present, because indulging in present give a momentary orgasm but serve no benefit in terms of learning and growing.

If we rightly understand and acknowledge our systemic failure along with causation and admit that the present is only the reflection of our past deeds and thoughts, our basic human consciousness will naturally guide us to right path and direction.

By saying that, I didn’t mean to spare Oli administration completely. We need to keep our voice loud, head straight, determination strong to make sure Oli administration does not give the continuity of our past mistakes and stupidity, which consequences our generations are bearing now.

Any incident is supposed to teach you a lesson, make you realize, make you understand right from wrong, give you more clarity and wisdom, that you become better, more wiser and more grown. This Covid-19 incident can be one of those opportunities to make us better and wiser if only we admit and acknowledge the years of malpractices, mistakes, shortsightedness that we all are paying now the heavy price for. If we only make it Oli-to-be-blamed-and-no-one-else thing, it may give a political mileage but will not build the collective consciousness needed for this country to move forward because we would not learn anything by blaming the present alone.

Bau ko rin chora lie. Deal with it, learn from it, get better and wiser.

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Opinion

Problem in problem solving

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On the earlier post, KMAG published an article emphasizing on the need of cultivating a culture of openly talking about certain traits and characters that are reflection of troublesome and potential threats, while fighting against “violence against women.” The article basically tried to dig on psychological factors, along with cultural factors that are quite apparent yet we collectively ignore or hesitate to talk about. In response to the article, Dr. Neeti Aryal Khanal commented, “…Your explanation of violence as psychological problem of abuser is laughable in itself.”

I know her for her bold statement on her Facebook, especially related to gender and societal issues and I respect her for many other different reasons regardless of our differences.

However, I am turning this particular comment as an opportunity to express something that I have been deeply feeling regarding how we educated populace often fail in problem solving and why.

Let’s take Rape as a problem.

Rape happens for different reasons.

Oh! my dad is DSP, I am untouchable.Impunity reason.
Oh! girls are made for sex. What is a big deal in having a forceful sex?Cultural reason (misogyny).
Nepal’s law. I don’t fear.” Weak law enforcement reason.
I am too desperate and I can’t control my sexual urge.Psychological reason.
“I enjoy raping. It makes me feel good.” Criminal reason.

You see, rape does not happen for one specific reason. Different people rape for different reasons (sometimes mixed of all). There are so many factors behind any incident. And if you are to look for a solution, you need to rightly understand what all are the factors involved. You need to take different approach for same problem with different factor.

Sadly, we are often too black and white while analyzing any problem. When you are too blind to think that there is only one factor for causing one specific problem, you will never find a solution, just like our political parties. “Oh! King is the reason for all our problems” and removed the king just to realize that’s not the sole reason. That’s a very good reference and lesson to learn from.

Anyone with bachelor level of education have conducted some kind of research or done assignment and must have learned how to analyze a problem. As taught in college, we need to take various factors into consideration to understand problem before we work towards the solution. Strangely, the very same assignment, we forget while in real world. We jump out of closet “faasi de!” as if problem is only with weak law enforcement. We demand “Kill the culture” as if that’s the only reason.

I strongly think now that this black and white thinking is one of the reasons why we never succeed to solve a problem. We become so obsessed with our idea of what could be the problem, that we don’t even think of other various factors involved. Why corruption? Because of this” Why poor? because of this. Why road accident? because of this” I mean, we really think there is always that one specific reason for that specific problem and nothing else. What will happen next? We chop off one head, just to realize there are other heads, just to be forever lost in the problem.

Instead, problem solving needs a scientific approach. What I meant by scientific approach is that we first identify a problem and think over all the possible causes and reasons. We take stats and analyze each case understanding factors involved. Then we try to understand the most common factor in all the all cases and we derive a solution that addresses that common factor, and then derive other factor-specific solutions.

That’s how an educated person is supposed to look at a problem and prescribe a solution. So many rape cases, so many acid attacks, so many domestic violence. How many times have our feminists actually have sat and segregated the case income-level wise, ethnicity wise, geography wise; how many times have they tried to look into a case apart from “patriarchy” angle? Of course, that is there and is expected to be one of the main reasons, but still have anyone ever tried to look from psychological factor? Not just feminist, but even our investigative agencies and bodies, media and civil society, I have never found them looking into a problem in much broader sense, analyzing layer by layer and rightly reaching to conclusion like a researcher does.

Anti-capitalists are too quick assign the blame to capitalist world.
Feminists are too quick assign the blame to patriarchy.
Activists are too quick to assign the blame to weak law enforcement and impunity.

I don’t know where it is coming from, because our education system has always taught us to never take a black and white approach to understand a problem and its causes. Maybe, it is coming from our politics, or from black and white media narratives, or our home or society.

Whatever, in this too-quick-to-assign-the-blame to something that we inherently hate or distaste, we have been failing to solve the problem, because problem has 100 heads and not just one head.

This is very important for every educated one out there to understand. What’s the difference between you the educated one and the porn-is-the-reason politician, otherwise.

p.s. This post is not about rape. Only taking rape as an example of discourse to imply how and why we fail in problem solving.

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Opinion

No, our girls too need a teaching

This article is gender-specific but should not mistake as gender bias. It works for both.

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In almost all the narratives related to violence against women, most of the slogans are like “teach your son…and not the girl,”
“our men need to be told……”
“let’s demand for strict punishment ….”

Not disagreeing with that, but in all that, we are skipping an important narrative that should have been equally bold and loud and that is to specify certain traits and characters and attitudes to be avoided and cut off from life.

Yes, it’s true that if males are taught well, females will suffer less. So, let’s say a campaign is run to aware and educate parents and every stakeholder of a society to take a responsibility to groom their male child properly. It may take 5 years, let’s say, to reach to that ideal state where every male has learned to behave properly. But in between those 5 years, how to safeguard our girl child? Should we close our eyes towards potential victims just because everything will be alright in 5 years?

So, while raising awareness, educating people, fighting against evil, we should equally take a responsibility of teaching and guiding our young girls on how they can avoid psychopath from life. How to identify male friends who seems threat? What are those specific traits and characters that they should look for? It could be maybe toxic masculinity. It could be narcissist characters.

There are many researches conducted on how psychopath, criminal minds, sociopaths are; their behavioral psychology, the way they talk, they way they act, and how that signals out their passive devil inside. We should be talking more often on those traits, those characters and types. Our young girls need to be told in dinner table, in cafe table, about types of men that they should be extra careful about. Our girls need to be told how inside a 6-feet tall and handsome, there might be an abuser dwelling in and how to identify that. Our girls need to be told inside a funny guy, there might be a psychopath who would not mind to burn her alive when in anger and how to identify that.

In South Asia and many least-developed countries, life is hard and being a girl is harder. It is hardest when you are soft, innocent, lonely, confused and has no body to look up to or reach out to. Most of the victims are the very same girls who fall in the trap of manipulative guys, because they were never told how to identify good guys from bad guys, because we as a society never talked about. We emphasized more on looks, wealth, profile but never in traits and characters.

How many times have our media talked about psychopaths, sociopaths? How often have our media published papers on criminal minds? How many times have you read articles or view contents from Nepali media on personality disorders? We barely have worked or studied on psychology, whereas most of such evil acts and behaviors are deeply rooted to psychology. And, there are cultural aspects fueling up the sick minds.

Point is, a person before turns into a violent boyfriend, he has always been apparent from the beginning that he has the tendency. A person before throws an acid, he has always been apparent from the beginning that he is capable of doing that. A person before rapes or sexually harasses somebody, has been very apparent through his way of talking or doing things from the beginning. We as a society collectively if play a role of educating people on all that, probably we will save many young girls from becoming a victim, without which she would only fall too quickly just over that charming face or smile or funny talk.

So while teaching the guys on how to behave, we should simultaneously teach our girls how to identify the potential rapist, potential acid attacker, abuser and harasser just in few meets. Encourage our girls to read more articles on human psychology, personality. Just by googling “how to know if I am dating an abuser” will itself gives 100s of well-researched articles. We should cultivate a culture of such that they be aware what they are signing up for.

Make it a coffee-table talk, make it a dinner-table talk; make it a social media talk. Make it loud and clear the kind of guys girls need to avoid. In this echo chamber, another beautiful thing will happen and that is you set norms for guys out there. No guys want to be someone that girls like to avoid. In between, behavior shaping happens, cultural shift happens.

Otherwise, until we don’t finish teaching and grooming all the guys, our girls will be keep suffering. You don’t want that, do you?

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