Egypt has for the first time introduced women-only buses in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour, with officials saying the move is not to combat sexual harassment as assumed by many.
“Of course we want to decrease any kind of violence against women, yet it is not the main reason for introducing the buses," spokesperson for Beheira governorate Wahdan El-Sayed told Ahram Online.
"The governorate has received complaints from women in the past weeks that they were unable to use public transportation, especially during rush hours," says El-Sayed, explaining that women were often physically unable to reach the bus doors due to men pushing their way onto the buses.
El-Sayed explained that six out of 66 government-owned buses have been allocated for women only, adding that five of the buses are for all women while one is designated for women with disabilities.
The official said the new buses have been in operation for the past four days and that citizens in the city have been overjoyed and are welcoming the new move.
"The buses only work during rush hour, though they will soon be operating throughout the day," El-Sayed said.
Public buses in Egypt offer several types of vehicles at different prices. There is the standard full-sized bus service run by the Cairo Transport Authority (LE1), and minibuses run by companies subcontracted by the government (LE2).
Public buses and Cairo’s metro system are the two most used and accessible means of transport in Egypt due to their low priced tickets.
In a country with chronic and severe traffic problems and an ever-growing population, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) highlighted in its latest annual report that passengers in all Egyptian governorates – with the exception of Cairo and Alexandria – increased from 86.1 thousand to 99.8 thousand between the years 2012 and 2014.
El-Sayed explained that no other cities have introduced the idea as they are not facing Damanhour’s traffic problems.
"We do not mean any kind of discrimination by this move as some people have been claiming, we just felt the urge to help elderly women to easily access public transportation," says El-Sayed.
"Sexual harassment is of course part of the problem, though it represents only 10 percent of the factors behind the creation of women-only buses."
A newly introduced ‘Pink Taxi’ service in Cairo attempts to address sexual harassment and discrimination by offering cabs with female drivers.
Egypt has long been facing endemic sexual harassment against women, especially in overcrowded public transportation.
Cairo’s metro system has carriages designated for women only, which were put in place by the government decades ago.
By Marina Barsoum