Sexual Harassment Is Keeping Women From Using Public Transportation

Women around the world are afraid of using public transportation, putting their futures at risk over fears that they cannot move about freely.

Close-up of woman with Venus female symbol painted around her eye.

As we continue to discuss how sexual abuse is widespread not only in Hollywood but in the world of professional sports, a new report shows that harassment is prevalent among public transportation systems around the globe.

According to the report looking into this tragic reality, harassment prevents women from being able to move about freely, impacting everything from their willingness to seek an education to their dependence on men.

Reuters carried out a survey featuring respondents from 16 major cities across the globe in order to determine which cities are more dangerous for women using public transportation.

As it turns out, women residing in Latin American cities are most vulnerable to the threat of harassment.

According to the survey, about six out of every 10 women in Latin American cities responded they had been physically harassed while using public transit. In Mexico City, 64 percent of women said they had been groped, and many women in Bogota, Colombia, saying they were afraid of using public transportation at night.

In other parts of the world, the problem is just as widespread.

In Delhi, India, 95 percent of women said in a 2009 survey that they felt their mobility was restricted simply because they were women and they were afraid of harassment.

According to a Women’s Empowerment Link survey focusing on Kenyan respondents, over 50 percent of participants said they had experienced harm perpetrated by men while using public transportation. In many cases, the organization added, respondents “witnessed female passengers being stripped naked ... but the female survivors neither received any help nor reported the violation.”

One of the many consequences of the fear women feel when using public transportation is that their mobility is severely restricted, which Stop Street Harassment founder, Holly Kearl, said, “[limits] women’s lives and their livelihood,” making them more dependent on the men in their lives.

“Experiencing sexual harassment on the transit system can cause women to change their routes to take alternative transit options that may be less convenient, take longer or are more costly, and on the extreme end, they may leave jobs or school if public transit is their only option and they are tired of or scared from the harassment they face,” she explained.

Several countries started to look at a solution to this problem, with some implementing women-only train carriages for instance, but others feel that nothing will address the root cause of this issue if we do not work together as a society.

Still, more must be done to give women the ability to report incidents safely and easily. Unfortunately, Nancy Vandycke, lead transport economist at the World Bank, said, “gender has not been part of the way we have been thinking about transport.”

As a result, women are seldom asked to participate in the conversation and are less likely to give input that would lead to policies and changes that could actually help protect them.

In order to empower women and allow them to become independent, we must address the transportation problem immediately. Otherwise, women will remain vulnerable and, even worse, afraid of seeking an education or going after a career because they are too afraid of being publicly harassed.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Mike Segar



View Comments

Recommended For You