Taking Up A Cause Close To All Women’s Hearts Turkish Women Take A Stand Against Men On Public Transport

Fighting sexual harassment and invasion of their personal space on public transport, women in Turkey have started a ‘Stop Spreading Your Legs’ Campaign for men.

Their demand is not unique, but is rather one that women all over the world understand all too well.

Turkish women took to Twitter to voice outrage at men who invade their personal space by spreading their legs while sitting on buses and trains. Tags #bacaklarinitopla, “Stop Spreading Your Legs,” and #yerimisgaletme, “Don’t Occupy My Space,” have been doing the rounds on the social media site gaining momentum as well as appreciation from the world over.

The initiative was taken by the Istanbul Feminist Collective. “When a woman is put in this situation, it is intimidating to warn the man because she doesn’t know what kind of reaction she will receive,” said Tugce Sarigul, a member of the group.

Hulya Unaldi, a nurse traveling on one of Istanbul’s public buses shared her experience,“Any woman who steps foot on public transport is at risk of sexual harassment. If you stand up you could get groped and if you sit you are subjected to a male’s leg pushing up against you.”

“Everyone knows this problem exists, but no one has had the courage to speak up about it publicly,” she added.

The feminist collective is encouraging women to print out the slogans and wear them as stickers while on board public transport.

A couple of years ago there was a plan for women only ‘Pink Buses’ in Turkey which never materialized but the women who support the present campaign feel no need for  those buses.  They feel women should not need a pink bus, or of any other color for that matter if fellow travelers whether men or women respect each other and their personal space.

Apparently both men and women, all over the world face similar problems while traveling.  But for women, it is more difficult as they face harassment on more than one level and more frequently than men.

Earlier this year BBC India asked its readers if women-only seats on public transport were a good idea. They had a mixed reaction ranging from, "Seats should not be reserved for ladies unless they're old, injured, pregnant or sick," to the idea being outdated and that it shows how "women are weak".

However what stood out the most was the response they got from people from people all over the world like Germany, Malawi, Brazil, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico and Bangladesh who shared similar stories.

Just last month women in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu protested against sexual harassment on public transport.

Dr. Dee Jupp, a World Bank consultant, feels collective action is needed to address gender and public transport problems.

“Solving public transport issues requires a social contract; it requires everybody to recognise that there is a problem. We need to think about it together, so that it becomes an opportunity to build social norms around making these public spaces more secure for everyone.”

View Comments

Recommended For You