Jaimie M. has been using the Dubai Metro daily to commute from her home in Karama to her office in Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT).
A designer by profession, Jaimie said one of the reasons she did not apply for a driving licence is that the Metro is such a convenient and safe form of transport. But the experience got unpleasant one day when a male co-passenger harassed her.
Women have no reason to fear on the Metro, says the authority. — KT file photo
Though the Metro is considered safe for women travelling alone, Khaleej Times has found that there have been cases of women being harassed by male passengers at the Metro station.
“My work hours can stretch on to 10pm on certain days. I risk going back late because I know it is safe. One day I had a man approach me with the pretense of casual small talk as I was walking towards the Al Nahda Metro station. I avoided eye contact and began walking towards the platform. He asked me for my mobile number which I refused to give. I walked away and next thing I know is that he followed me all the way till the JLT station,” said Jaimie. Later, only after she threatened to alert the police that the stalker backed off.
Eve-teasing, a common euphemism, is an act where women face sexual aggression ranging from sexually suggestive remarks, catcalls and sometimes outright groping.
Another passenger and a retail store employee, Nicole S., said she had faced similar cases of harassment. “I was standing outside the station waiting for a feeder bus, smoking a cigarette. A man came up to me and asked me if he could borrow my cigarette lighter. He started small talk and started asking personal questions,” said Nicole. She stated that the man outrightly asked her if she would like to be dropped home in his car, which was parked a few metres away. “He said that he is new and alone in the city and was on the lookout for new ‘hot friends’. My question is if he had a car what was he doing waiting outside a metro station,” asked Nicole. When Khaleej Times asked these women as to why they did not alert authorities at the station, they said that they did not want to ‘create a scene’.
Pakistani national Jameela said: “I have been travelling using the Metro everyday for the last six months. I travel during the peak hours. On certain days the trains are really crowded. As a woman, I can deal with the lewd stares and most men are too scared to approach women. But when men try and make small talk, it gets scary.”
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said women have no reason to fear on the Metro as security is top priority for the agency. Adnan Al Hammadi, CEO, Rail Agency, said: “Women should not be scared at all. They can approach the nearest available security officer or police officer present at the Metro stations and the police will definitely take action. In the Metro they can speak to the operator who is always present.”
Meanwhile, a few men that KT spoke to responded indignantly. Engineering professional Saurabh S. said: “I got fined Dh100 in a feeder bus because I sat on a seat that is reserved for women. The bus was empty and there were no women present at that time. Even standing ‘too close’ to women is sneered upon in this society; making conversation is out of question. All men cannot be held responsible for the acts of a few creeps.”
Clinical counsellor Dina Zalami at LifeWorks has a MEd in Counselling and Development. She said: “One of the most common reactions that harassment victims feel is guilt and shame. They feel like they are responsible for what happened and they may have done something to attract the incident. It affects the victims’ self-esteem and low self-esteem impacts negatively on women.” As a solution, Zalami recommended that sexual harassment must be viewed as a societal problem and not an individual issue. “I would strongly encourage victims to seek out therapy,” added Zalami. (Certain names mentioned in the story have been withheld on request)