A group of activists from Turkey's opposition Felicity Party (FP) staged a demonstration yesterday, calling for women-only buses for the country's most populated city Istanbul.
Demonstrators from the women's branch of the conservative party, rallied outside the offices of the Istanbul mayor for a "pink metrobus" in reference to Istanbul's bus rapid transit. They carried banners reading: "A Pink bus is a need, not an option." "We want comfortable travel for women."
Speaking on behalf of demonstrators, Nagehan Gül Asiltürk, Istanbul president of the party's women's branch, said women in the city confronted serious challenges due to overcrowded metrobuses. "Female passengers, especially pregnant ones and senior citizens, are forced to take metrobuses for a fast trip, but they are often packed to the full with people shoving each other in an atmosphere where even breathing is difficult. Moreover, women are subject to (sexual) harassment by some depraved types amid the crowd," she said. Asiltürk said affirmative action for women in mass transit was common in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia.
She said that they would continue their rallies until the Istanbul Municipality responds to their call. The party collected some 60,000 signatures in 2012 in their campaign for pink metrobuses.
Although it draws support, especially from women traveling with their children, the pink metrobus campaign also has its detractors who claim allocating exclusive buses for women would brand women not taking the pink vehicles as "indecent" and portray buses as vehicles full of male sexual offenders.
Metrobuses, launched in 2007, offer a fast ride for commuters avoiding heavily congested traffic peaking in rush hours. On the other hand, metrobuses prove as troublesome as traffic jams for passengers, since they are always packed to the full within those hours. Occasional brawls erupt in metrobuses over alleged sexual harassment though it is difficult to prove the harassment as people are already piled on each other.