Is a man obligated to get up and give his seat to a woman?
The pains of public transport in an Indian context — and how we can make them better.
According to me — seats are reserved for women in buses to protect them and NOT because they are women and hence they need more comfort.
Public transport in a country like India is unsafe — so many women every day are touched inappropriately by men under the pretence of a bumpy ride. You might say the touch was by accident but was the laughter he shared with his friends a minute later an accident too?
Because the world is different for men who (according to me) have won the gender lottery, most of them find it hard to understand the struggles that make up a woman’s daily life.
Imagine having to suffer lascivious groping like women do.
Imagine hearing rude comments called out after you when you walk on a deserted street at night.
Imagine worrying if your jeans are too tight, or if your dupatta (scarf) has fallen a bit lower, so the curve of your breast is showing, that your skirt is too short or your heels are too uncomfortable to run in if things came to that.
Imagine fearing for your life every time someone shouts after you ‘Aey ran** ch**ne ka mann hai tujhe’ (Hey slut, I want to fuck you).
Anyway, I digress.
Coming to the topic — no, of course you are not obligated to give up your seat if you see a woman standing.
But please do bear this mind that if a woman is pregnant, she might not show it or even look tired, but she might be suffering from extreme mood swings, stomach cramps and nausea.
Don’t you think she would feel a little better if she were seated?
If she is on her period, she might have just had a disagreement with her family or her boyfriend (raging hormones, you know?), and right now, the only thing she might need is a place to sit and rest her back.
Yes, she might not be as tired as you are, but don’t you think she would cope better if someone were kind to her and offered her a seat?
As for my personal experience in this matter, there have been several instances when I have happily claimed a seat reserved for women, and not gotten up even when I saw an equally-tired looking man get in and not find any place to sit. But I don’t think this is gender-specific. Not all women do this — and I am selfish in that way.
And there have been several others when I was returning home after a week of hard work with a heavy laptop bag on my back, seen men seated in places reserved for women and not asked them to get up.
Because, after all, I do not deserve special treatment just because I am a woman, right?
I know, as a man, you might have worked really hard. Of course, you need that place to sit. You don’t have to give it up for a woman. But try and imagine feeling as tired as you do right now, and then add to it stomach and leg cramps, nausea and mood swings where you have no clue what is going on with yourself.
So next time, if someone you see is in genuine need, or if someone asks you to let them sit instead, just do it.
Not as a sign of respect for women, but as an act of kindness to a fellow human being.
Maybe you’ll accumulate good karma and someday, all of it will come back to you.