So, the AAP government in New Delhi, India recently announced that they would like to make public transport (metro rail and buses) FREE for women.
One might assume this would be celebrated by people, right?
Shockingly, NO. People are pissed. Or let’s say, ignorant ones at least are. And they are making arguments to protest against this move. Below, I write about the arguments and why they are absolute garbage.
1- This is not FEMINISM or EQUALITY if only women get free rides.
If you think about equality in such binary terms, you have no clue what feminism is. The picture most commonly circulated on the internet to explain the issue is this one, which illustrates what I mean.
Equality is the ideal goal but to give people equality, we have to ensure all people have the same starting point in the race. Which is not. We have all sorts of social and economic inequalities within gender inequality. So, if you have read anything on FEMINISM, you would know that things like reservations for the disabled or women or any special privileges given to women are because historically women were marginalized and to CORRECT THAT IMBALANCE some sort of measures will be needed.
2- Don’t bring FEMINISM into this.
Of course, the existence of women and them reclaiming public spaces is very much a feminist issue and if anyone claims to be a feminist for real, they would very much approve and celebrate this move by Kejriwal.
3- Women care about safety and not free rides.
This one too is an ignorant statement from someone coming from a privileged background. Maybe you don’t care about saving roughly 2500 INR per month because your bank account has 50,000. But for someone who barely makes 10,000 or less a month, this 2500 would mean a lot to them.
So, please don’t pretend that all Indian women living in Delhi are so financially well off that they don’t care about saving that money. Secondly, safety is a larger picture, the elements of which are divided into a thousand smaller pieces.
Safety for women is NOT an ice cream that you GIVE women.
Because if that is the case, women suffer the most harassment and abuse in their own homes through their husbands, fathers, brothers, and relatives. Can we isolate all women from their families or place CCTVs inside their homes?
Women’s safety is a very large project and women RECLAIMING PUBLIC SPACES is a tiny element or a building block that would contribute to that larger picture. The key here is for women TO BE SEEN in public spaces, changes the age-old mindset of men that women must stay indoors or only travel at certain times a day.
You may not think it has any impact but research suggests otherwise. Just speak with Mumbaikers. Women in Mumbai may also face harassment in public from time to time but they travel at any time day or night and are not looked at weirdly because the working class women do travel and men have gotten used to the idea of seeing them in public spaces.
I cannot emphasize how important it is for women to BE SEEN IN PUBLIC SPACES, living their lives, doing their thing or just loitering.
4- This is only a political bait thrown by the AAP.
To people who say this, my question is “name one political party in India that has not offered some kind of pre-election treat to people?”
And if those pre-election promises are religious divisions and persecution of minorities, then I think AAP IS NOT ONLY RIGHT BUT also should be CELEBRATED for at least making the bait non-religious, and something that would help the working class women from economically backward society.
5- The metros will be overcrowded and uncomfortable and all sorts of poor people would make it ghetto.
This, of course, is an argument coming from an elitist or upper-middle-class person who wants equality and democracy only above their level, not below.
The people making the policy are not fools. Kejriwal explained how this has been budgeted and taking into account the daily commuters stats, there is not going to be overcrowding as is in Mumbai.
Yeah, the only thing is, wearing your expensive Gucci dress you might have to sit or stand next to a happy maid wearing a 200 Rupee saree, who just might be too busy to notice your fancy presence because her focus might be not on your Prada bag but her monthly wage.
So, if this pisses you off that a poor woman might make a living while you cannot call the metro fancy and a means that caters to rich people any more, then I would say- STAY PISSED, NO ONE CARES.
This is what all of it actually comes down to.
Women from poorer backgrounds might be able to travel far for economic opportunities and in general, the reclaiming of public spaces by women is GOOD and a welcome move.
Kejriwal has got this one thing right and may have a hundred more to go.
But at least its a good start.
Something is better than nothing.