Though boarding a public bus requires very little thought in the United States, buses in other parts of the world can turn into tricky modes of transportation. Not only might cultural customs need to be adhered to on a bus, but some buses may also be segregated based on sex. This means that some buses may only admit passengers of a specific sex, or some buses might be divided according to sex.
Though many Western women might feel that this approach to transportation is a breach of their Women’s Rights, other women welcome the segregation as a way to shore up their safety. However you feel about sex segregation on buses, make it a point to find out more about this topic in the areas you are planning to travel to in order to have the smoothest, safest trip possible.
Though some officially segregated buses may still exist, many buses that segregate passengers based on sex do so informally and based on tradition or custom. However, this does not necessarily mean that those who transgress the segregated arrangement will be tolerated nicely, or tolerated at all.
Some buses may only accept passengers of a one sex, and some buses may accept both but may require passengers to sit in specific areas based on their sex. Some other buses may even have different doors for passengers based on their sex.
If buses are crowded then these segregation practices are usually obvious. If buses are not crowded then it can be harder for potential passengers to identify if any sex segregation is in place. As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to ask the driver than risk making the mistake if boarding or sitting in the wrong place. If you prefer to ask a fellow passenger, then try to ask a fellow passenger of the same sex to avoid any cultural misunderstandings.
Once you board a particular bus, selecting a seat might still be fraught with difficulty. Again, on a crowded bus you may be able to tell if women sit in one area and men in another. On a less crowded bus you may wonder if you should simply take a free space instead of sitting next to another passenger.
If possible, ask the driver or another passenger of the same sex. If this is not possible, follow your gut instinct. In highly religious areas you may find it more comfortable to avoid sitting next to a member of the opposite sex. Also, if you find that you do sit in an area of which other passengers do not approve, your fellow passengers may well make this obvious to you.
To avoid any danger, moving seats is your best option. While you may feel that you’d like to make a stand for women’s rights or your own right’s, put your personal safety first. If you feel uncomfortable, intimidated or unsafe then change seats immediately or even consider disembarking and waiting for a new bus.
Sex segregation on buses is not something with which Western travellers are usually familiar. However, if sex segregation is either officially or unofficially in use on buses in other areas, travellers should use their common sense in protecting their personal safety. Remember, passengers who arrive safely can challenge these practices at a later time and a safer place.