Public space harassment
KATHMANDU, April 7: Many young women and girls in Kathmandu Valley don't like to use public transport because of sexual harassment, which is rife despite several attempts by the authorities to tackle the problem. Soyana Nyachhon, an 18-year-old student, says she has encountered harassment many times while using public transport vehicles in the city. "I was traveling in a micro-bus in the Maitighar area recently and a man of around 25 to 30 came close to my seat deliberately. It made me feel really uncomfortable," she said. "I asked him to move away a little but he didn't respond. So I kept quiet and prayed that my stop would come soon," she added. She further said it was not the first time she had faced such situations while using public transport. Office employee Trisha Manandar, 29, said , "I was in a three-wheeler a few days ago and a man who appeared to be above 40 kept staring at my body. I felt not only uncomfortable but furious." Manandhar says she didn't know what to do at first. "Then I decided to take a stand. I clicked his picture with my cell phone and spoke to him directly. I told him that if he kept gawking at me I would take his picture to the police and file a complaint. After that he did not dare to look at me," she said. Babita KC, 26, faced an incident that has haunted her ever since. "It was already night time while I was returning home from office. I got into a crowded bus as therre was no other option. The bus helper touched my back while I was getting into the bus. When I turned back and looked at him angrily he removed his hand. But he kept staring at me and making uncalled for comments with other passengers," she said. "I didn't know what to do but I felt very humiliated," she said. Making indirect comments, producing uncomfortable sounds and coming uncomfortably close are some of the forms of harassment that young women and girls have to encounter in public transport every day. However, there is no specific law against such behavior. Purnima Chand, chief of Women and Children Service Center at Nepal Police, admitted that no stringent action can be taken against this kind of harassment due to lack of specific laws. "We go to the bus stops and take three minutes to talk to the passengers. We ask them to report to us if anyone is subjected to harassment. We provide our contact numbers," said Inspector Chand. She further said that they have recently started checking the transport vehicles. "Although there is no law in Nepal to deal with cases of harassment, we try our best under the Public Offence Act to punish offenders," she said. Chand also informed that there have been no formal complaints registered of late. Some 10-12 young women and girls had complained about a month ago. "In such situations, the accused are called to the station and we keep them for a night to teach them a lesson," she added. The police and women activists have raised serious concern over the issue and started a campaign, but to no avail.