47pc women victims of unwanted touch and comments

Sexual Harrasment

Around 63 per cent women, youth or teenage girls, travelling on public transport, become victims of different sorts of harassment. And, almost 47 per cent of them fall victim to sexual harassment.

About half (45 per cent) of these women who were victims of sexual harassment have faced psychological problems later.

This was revealed in a survey report titled ‘Harassment on public transports in Dhaka: Effects on adolescent and young girls’ mental health’.

The list of sexual harassment faced by women on public transport includes uncalled for touches from drivers’ assistants, passengers standing close despite adequate space on the bus, inappropriate touching, jostling and bad comments.

Most of the women who took part in the survey didn’t protest these incidents to avoid complications.

The majority of the sexual harassers are passengers. Many have endured sexual harassment at the hands of public-transport drivers and their assistants as well. People over 40 years old are more likely to be harassers.

The results of this survey report were revealed in a virtual programme organised by Anchal Foundation, a non-government organisation, on Friday.

During the programme, Anchal Foundation stated that bus, train, human hauler (Leguna), ride sharing services etc. plying inside the capital, Dhaka, were included in the survey.

The survey was conducted on school, college and university female students, working women and a few housewives of Azimpur, Mirpur, Gulshan, Banani, Dhanmondi, Baridhara and several other areas of the capital.

A total of 805 women aged between 13 to 35 years participated in the survey. 86 per cent of the respondents were students.

Details of women who faced harassment in between the six months prior to the beginning of the survey, were added in the report. The survey was run both online and offline.

Female students were interviewed at different educational institutes. The survey was run from January to March this year.

The survey report stated, alongside sexual harassment, 15 per cent respondents faced bullying, 15 per cent social discrimination, 15 per cent gender discrimination and 8 per cent faced harassment based on their physical features.

When asked who the people are that harass women sexually, 75 per cent respondents said that they were harassed by fellow passengers. Meanwhile, 20 per cent respondents said they were harassed by drivers’ assistants, 3 per cent accused hawkers and 2 per cent said it was the bus driver himself.

Almost 62 per cent teenage and young girls said, they fell prey to sexual harassment by men aged between 40 to 59 years. And 36 per cent women alleged teenagers and young men, belonging to the age group of 13 to 49 years, sexually harassed them.

It was alleged, although drivers’ assistants are supposed to get down from the bus while taking women passengers onboard and letting them off, they keep hanging onto the bus door and touched women in an offensive manner.

Around 61 per cent of the women said, they suffered unwelcom touches from drivers’ assistants while getting on or off the bus. Almost 25 per cent respondents said, they had to face such touches at least three times within the span of just six months.

When asked them what type of sexual harassment they had to endure the most, 31 per cent teenage and young girl who took part in the survey said, many times other passengers intentionally stand close to them even if there is empty space available to stand at a distant.

As much as 18 per cent respondents faced slight touches, intentionally by strangers. About 14 per cent teenagers and young women confessed being victims of intentional pushes. About 14 percent girls said, they were harassed with lewd comments.

Besides, 33 per cent women became victims of sexual harassment amidst light crowd while, 27 per cent were harassed amidst excessive crowd. Most of the women didn’t protest to avoid hassle.

Farzana Akhter, executive member of Anchal Foundation presented the findings of the survey during the virtual event.

Md Ismail Hossain, professor and head of the social work department at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, while speaking as a guest, termed the findings of the survey as alarming.

He said, it becomes evident from this data that there is no gender equilibrium or equality in the society. Solutions to this problem have to be found legally and socially.

As social solution, awareness must be increased to eradicate the existent patriarchal mindset in the society. Plus, social movements have to be formed through short and long term planning, he added.

Another guest of the programme lawyer Shyikh Mahdi said, there is no clear legal solution to sexual or other kinds of harassment against women on public transport.

However, there are ways of receiving justice against such harassment under the jurisdiction of some sections of the penal code and the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, he added.

He mentioned many women do not show the courage to protest such harassment fearing further harassment or to avoid legal complications. He commented that silence will only make the offenders more reckless.

So, women can take measures like immediate protest, asking help from the national helpline numbers 999 or 109 and collecting some proofs for taking legal steps, such as recording audio or video of the incident using cell phones. Justice can be found at mobile courts by presenting these evidences.

The event was presided over by Tansen Rose, founding president of Anchal Foundation. Anchal Foundation has made a ten points proposal to prevent harassment on public transports.

The list of the proposals includes, not allowing passengers more than the seats of the transport, setting closed circuit (CC) cameras inside public transports, arranging separate transports for women, making it compulsory for bus drivers-conductors-assistants to wear name tags with their identities, conducting mobile courts by ensuring quick trial, carrying out public awareness programmes etc.