KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 ― Male and female passengers who board long-haul bus operator TransMalaya Ekspres will be expected to sit separately if they are not family or married, even when they are non-Muslims.
Speaking to Malay Mail Online, the company said it made the decision to provide comfort and safety for female passengers, following concerns over sexual harassment against the group.
"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," said Noorlini Ramli, the owner and co-founder of KRZ Management Sdn Bhd that manages the TransMalaya fleet.
Noorlini said the initiative was taken following her own negative experience as a lone traveller, and witnessing couples act in buses in ways she deemed inappropriate.
"I used to travel alone when I was a student at UiTM Jengka, and at that that time, I had to witness some couples behaving inappropriately in the bus in full view of other passengers and I had to sit beside a foreigner who started acting funny with me.
“These were the basis of our initiative today. Single female travellers are usually exposed to more danger. We put ourselves in our passengers’ shoes," she added.
Despite that, Noorlini said none of TransMalaya’s passengers had complained of harassment prior to the move.
Noorlini said she and her husband Amir Khairul Amri Budiman Khairuddin, who is the chief executive officer and co-founder of the firm, came up with the idea and started implementing it from February last year.
She also claimed that the move was well-received by customers from all racial and religious backgrounds.
According to her, TransMalaya’s ticketing counter staff would first ask their female customers whether they are travelling alone, and subsequently offer them the appropriate seats.
In their buses, women will sit on the right, while men on the left.
"When our customers buy tickets from us, we would explain to them the seatings available. Some will say they are okay with having a male sitting beside them while most will opt for the female seats,” Noorlini said.
Noorlini said Muslim couples who buy tickets together will be asked to produce their marriage certification.
Despite that, she conceded that some customers do resist against their condition and demand to be seated together.
"When that happens, we will usually give them the front seats. We will try advising them against it, but if they do not accept our advice, then we give them the front seats so we can keep an eye on them," she added.