Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico City's Newest Bus Option: 'Ladies Only'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico City's Newest Bus Option: 'Ladies Only'

Article excerpt

It is nearing rush hour along one of Mexico City's main boulevards, and the passing city buses are a blur of mashed cheeks and miserable scowls.

And then rolling down the road comes what seems like an alien object at this time of day: A bus with breathing space, empty seats, even a few smiles. On the front window is a sign: "Exclusively for Ladies."

Welcome to Mexico City's latest effort to make its infamously inhospitable city more manageable. The city's new female-only bus service, which began this month, is a response to complaints by women over an unacceptable number of sexual passes, verbal abuse, and lewd looks on their daily commute.

"They touch you, and push up against you or jeer at you," says Soledad Barcenas, as she waits at a bus stop for the new service. She allows three regular buses to pass by - after picking her 10- year-old niece up from school. "I care most because of her; she loves it."

The program was launched along two bus routes, and the city hopes to expand it to 15 of its 88 routes in the upcoming months. So far, 20,000 women have hopped aboard, says Ariadna Montiel Reyes, the head of Mexico City's public bus system.

As a woman in the male-dominated transport agency, she says, she has a unique perspective on sexual harassment. "When I was studying architecture at my university, apart from the discomfort of carrying all of my [tools], it happened to me. There are few women who would say they have not experienced this on public transportation."

Separating men and women on rails and roadways in an effort to increase women's safety and sense of security has been implemented elsewhere. Mexico City has been shuttling women and children into separate subway cars during rushhour for years.

Mexico City's latest scheme comes as women are asserting a greater intolerance toward sexual misconduct on public transportation across the globe. Nations from Egypt to Brazil have experimented with similar initiatives. Two summers ago, in New York City, plainclothes police staged a sting targeting gropers. It stemmed in part from a blog called hollabacknyc.com, which recounts stories of harassment. …

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