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The ladies coach of the Delhi metro is touted to be a safe space for women. However, an experience in the general coach brought the nuances of reservation and safe spaces for women in perspective. Read on to find out why.

After a tiring day at the college, all I wanted was a comforting nap in my only place of solace, the Metro. It had already arrived on the platform, so I rushed towards the ladies’ coach, only to land up in the general coach. It was crowded with almost no space to stand. Just then I saw a man sitting on the seat reserved for ladies in the general coach. I approached towards that seat, but as soon as I reached there, I decided not to take it.

My decision was based on a few observations I made during my experiences of travelling in the metro. The first one was the question which always came to my mind- Why do I need a reserved space as a woman? I could recollect the phrase “missing women” which was coined by Amartya Sen when he showed that in parts of the developing world, the ratio of women to men in the population is suspiciously low. The same case of missing women arises when it comes to women in public spaces. Because of the lack safe spaces for women, the women’s coach brings in a sense of comfort and is one of the safe spaces in the lives of women. Suppose there were no ladies coach on the Delhi metro, then maybe these “missing women” may disappear even further. As it is not always the case that women travel alone, there is the provision for reserved seats for women in the general coach. Therefore, these underlying problems make it very necessary for me and all other women to have a reserved safe space.

In another instance, I saw a woman in her twenties scolding a man to get up from his seat (which was not reserved), as if, he is obliged to show the chivalry she was expecting from him. But even if it was a reserved seat, on that very instance I had chaotic tension in my mind over my entitlement towards that reserved space. What defines my entitlement towards that seat? Is it my sex or is it because of the social hindrances I face that make me obliged to it? Women are the ones who are on the receiving end of social discrimination. But when I consider myself as an empowered and aware woman, I have to check my privilege of enfranchisement to this seat and chivalry I expect from men. When I say I need a safe space, I also imply that I would not use this boon to my advantage for a warranted chivalry to be shown by men.

Feminism and women empowerment are not just women’s issues. They are a collective of efforts by men and women to equalize opportunities for all.  The equalization will happen only when I don’t use my identity, but my social disadvantage due to the dysfunctional society.  My feminism stands for empowerment of women not because they are women, but because they faced the evils of the society as they are women. In a way I offered the seat to that man, and that made me feel empowered.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Sriya Rane

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