With sexual predators on the prowl, some new rules of engagement with strangers
By Eric Kalunga
Women, mothers beware.
The list of daladalas ills just got officially extended: the person seated next to you or standing close to you could be a sexual predator.
You might be proud to be a trusting and polite Tanzanian, but this kind of thing just shows that you must never take, at face value, the offer of a stranger to seat your baby on his lap while you stand.
If he`s a decent person, he should give up the seat for you and your child. As simple as that. If he offers to take the baby, simply say NO, THANK YOU, SIR.
Sexual predators are lurking around every corner apparently, including on daladalas.
This means people should not just be afraid of the crazy konda and his equally demented driver but also of the possibility of falling prey to a perverted passenger.
Many of our female friends and relatives have often had a story about the strange things happening to them or their friends on public transport.
Now, the strange stories are making it to the news media and a few of them have gone all the way to the police. There is genuine cause for concern.
One wonders if perhaps the crowding on the buses has some role to play in all this. Maybe not. But female friends believe crowding provides an opportunity for sick men to press themselves too close to them.
For sure it is because of the crowding, that the mother who gets on the bus with her baby and can`t find a place to sit is forced to pass on her precious baby to a seemingly decent stranger and, dear God, it`s too sick to imagine!
Some of the sick men reportedly ask to seat the innocent children on their own laps.
When government insists that buses should not be filled beyond their legal capacity, it is because such a situation can get too ugly in the case of an accident.
In the ensuing chaos, chances of survival for passengers on a crowded bus are thought to be much slimmer than on a regulated bus.
So the desirable situation is thought to be of having people seated at all times and with their seatbelts buckled.
The reason most passengers usually wish to avoid overcrowded buses is the pickpockets who are believed to take advantage of this irregularity to somehow relieve you of your meagre valuables.
Now, however, the list of daladalas calamities just got officially extended: the person seated next to you or standing close to you could be a sexual predator.
Personally I believe the other reason why such incidents occur is because of the well known politeness of your average Tanzanian.
We really hate to offend and would go out of our to accommodate requests even when our heads tell us no, don`t do it. This is because saying no would offend the other person.
How can you possibly say no to someone who has asked to help you with your child in a packed bus? He doesn`t look like a pervert at all, just a reasonable fellow passenger extending help in a moment of need.
Well, we should now know better. Sexual predators don’t wear labels on their foreheads proclaiming their perversion.
They are just your regular guy - your workmate, neighbour, guard, teacher, brother, husband, shopkeeper.
They blend in as much as possible to that they can get at their prey easily. They are counting on your trusting nature to compel you to trust them and then they hurt you.
The safe thing here would and should be to simply say no thank you and keep on carrying the baby.
This might offend the person but at least you will not blame yourself forever if you trusted and handed over your child to someone only for the person to hand back your child with her clothes bloodied.
The fact that the other person might be offended by your rejection of his ``kind`` offer is an outcome that we must simply learn to accept. Westerners never take kindness easily and we often despise them for this.
But now we know that something are not quite what they are on face value.
The ``nice`` gentleman will get over your snubbing of his gesture but your child will remain safe and intact.
Also if the person is as decent as he claims to be he should completely understand and leave you in peace.
Moreover, there is more than one way of helping out a parent saddled with a child on the crowded bus.
Instead of offering to carry the baby for her, you can simply stand up and leave the seat for the mother to sit with her child.
That is standard practise on public transport and in public spaces in the West. The elderly, the pregnant and people with children are given priority.
Hear this my sister: Don`t pass on your child to a ``kind`` stranger on the bus. In addition, you might want to reconsider boarding the vehicle if it is full and likely to lead to difficulties in handling a child.
This might be impossible in some areas of the city, but it you would rather be delayed in the interest of safety (at least for your child) than to rush and regret.
It is good parent for the parent who is travelling somewhere with a child and has to use public transport to try schedule themselves so that they avoid peak hours.
Women too should be warned. It is only when there are many people around that if a man presses himself too close to a woman he will not raise any suspicion and will probably get away with the harassment.
And how do you tell when someone is just getting too close for comfort? Good question. Don`t worry that you might appear too rude to tell off someone in a crowded aisle.
Just tell him off. Be as straight and as rude as possible and tell the fellow to give you some space.
Make it clear that you do not wish to be in such close contact with the man.
If you are averse to offending people then you should seriously consider avoiding crowded buses all together. Or, make sure you will be able to sit once you have boarded.
Whatever the case, do not fear standing up to those you suspect are up to some suspicious agendas. Better safe than sorry.