World News

Mexico City starts grope-free buses for women

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico City has started a women-only bus service to protect female passengers from groping and verbal abuse common on the city’s packed public transportation system.

Millions of people cram into subway trains and buses in the Mexican capital, one of the world’s largest cities, and women have long complained of abuse from men taking advantage of overcrowding to sneak in an inappropriate grab.

“One time a man stuck his hand up my skirt. They grab your butt ... It’s gross,” said 27-year-old office assistant Lourdes Zendejas, who waited 20 minutes during the evening rush hour to catch one of the new buses.

The special buses pull up at ordinary stops but have large pink “women only” signs on the front and side. They were added to two busy routes last week and the city government plans to expand the program to 15 other routes by April.

Mexico City’s transport system, which also includes hundreds of privately operated “micro” buses, carries twice as many riders as New York’s.

“We were constantly receiving complaints of women being leered at, kissed or followed,” said Carlos Cervantes, spokesman for the city’s public bus system.

Mexico City already had reserved the first three cars in subway trains for women and children but this is the first time the model has been tried in buses.

Women using the new service on Monday had space to sit down and giggled as the driver turned away men at the door.

“This is wonderful. Men never give up their seat for us old people, no one is a gentleman,” said 73-year-old Beatriz Perez, whose bulging shopping bags were tucked under her seat.

But not everyone was convinced that having only women would make the ride more pleasant.

“Women can be aggressive too,” said telephone operator Rosa Maria Vargas, 42, traveling with her 9-year-old son. “When it gets really crowded, I’ve been pushed and punched before by men and women.”

Editing by Catherine Bremer and John O’Callaghan