Long-haul bus operator TransMalaya Ekspres has been practising gender segregation in its buses since February 2015 before it was featured by Berita Harian yesterday, and subsequently Malay Mail Online by following up with Noorlini Ramli, the owner and co-founder of KRZ Management Sdn Bhd that manages the fleet.
The revelation was met with outrage over the spill of moral policing into the transport industry that would also affect non-Muslims, reminiscent of segregated check-out lines in Kelantan.
The outrage however was mocked by among others Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), who claimed it contradicts liberals and feminists’ goal of protecting women. It also became the subject of a webcomic by VulpineNinja (which itself does not reflect the exact facts of the case).
Supporters of the policy lambasted critics, believing that it protects women from sexual harassment, which was backed by Noorlini’s claim:
“The point of this is to give an advantage to our female passengers because we have heard and read reports of how female travellers get molested by strangers, so we took this effort to give them a greater sense of security and comfort.
“This is for both Muslim and non-Muslim. We simply want to avoid any untoward incidents.”
Is it, though? While there is undeniable intent that the policy is meant to ensure women’s safety, it reeks much more of moral policing.