POST TIME: 8 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Harassment inside public transports

Harassment inside public transports

It is well known that women commuters in Bangladesh’s public transports are not safe. On a regular basis many of them face sexual harassment from the bus staff or fellow passengers when they got on a bus or travelled standing if the bus was overcrowded. Be that as it may, a recent survey conducted by BRAC on the extent of harassment has revealed a very disturbing picture. Its report says that about 94 per cent of women commuting in public transport in Bangladesh have experienced sexual harassment in verbal, physical or other forms.

And even more disturbingly the vast majority of the perpetrators are middle aged or elderly people who belonged to the age group between 41 to 60 years– a group of citizens from whom good sense and behavior is expected. The BRAC report also tried to find out what are the reasons behind this high level of sexual abuse and pointed out that lax implementation of laws, excessive crowd in buses, weak or zero monitoring, such as absence of close circuit cameras, etc. are the reasons.

While these factors are responsible, the point that must  be stressed is that most men in Bangladesh are still way behind regarding learning to respect the other sex. There is also a general perception here that for a sex offence, it is the woman who is responsible: they are not properly dressed when they get out of home or they move about in a provocative manner, etc. and etc.  Apart from this unfair mentality towards women, we rarely find sexual offences of grave nature such as rape or child sexual  abuse get due punishment. Police here usually discourage women with complaints of sexual abuse, and this gives protection to the perpetrators of sex crimes. So, if 94 percent female commuters are sexually abused some way or other while commuting, it is because all these factors are present and work together in our society.

For stopping harassment in public transport, it is necessary to give focus on the causes of abuse the BRAC report pointed out. If we talk only about the capital, apart from introducing sufficient number of buses exclusive for women in different routes, it is necessary to make mandatory to have close circuit cameras in every buses. Standing passengers can be allowed, but there should be a limit to how many such passengers a bus can take when there is a pressure of commuters. A minibus, for example, cannot take more than five standing passengers.

There should be a campaign to increase gender sensitivity among men. If this is done and the sexual offenders are punished, it is hoped that harassment inside public transports will come down.