When more than 95 percent of women feel it’s unsafe to travel alone in public spaces in Colombo, Sri Lanka, it’s no surprise that one in four women report sexual harassment on public transportation in the country, according to a new report from the Transport Ministry.
“The Minister revealed that a large number of women are being subject to verbal and physical abuse in buses and trains each day. He said that this has contributed to the decline in the use of public transport by passengers in recent times.
The Minister said the issue needed to be addressed in order to ensure that women are afforded their basic rights and to ensure the public transport system does not spiral downwards.
‘Steps have already been taken to introduce new programs and workshops next month for both Private and SLTB bus drivers and conductors to better educate them on the importance of providing better services for women without being subject to harassment and abuse in buses,’ he said. Ministry sources said that such programs will also be introduced for railway services in the future.
Ministry sources said that if bus passengers are subject to harassment when using public transport they could make their complaints to 011 7555 555.”
It’s great that they are creating programs, workshops, and trainings to address the issue, as opposed to creating women-only transportation, as have governments in more than 15 countries. Guatemala is the most recent example.
More good news is that organizations in Sri Lanka called Reach Out and Beyond Borders are currently running an anti-street harassment campaign called Join the Fight Against Harassment. They recently held a “Man Up” event to engage boys and men in ending street harassment.
Here’s more about their campaign from the Sunday Times:
“Apart from consulting victims, psychologists and NGO’s, Reach Out took to the street and gathered research in a more dynamic way. ‘Reach Out, together with Beyond Borders (a youth led NGO), carried out various disruptive theatre performances at public places where we enacted scenes of harassment spontaneously in order to identify the public reaction. We even spoke to people on the streets and school children.’…
Reach Out’s approach is to instill moral values in the younger generation. ‘The whole problem in contradiction to the fight against harassment is the attitude and mindset that, harassment cannot be stopped. This needs to change. Harassment can be stopped, we just need to work hard and join against it.’”
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