Sunday, October 25, 2020

Steps to make women feel safer on public buses

Nov 22. 2018
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STATE-OWNED bus operator The Transport Company has delivered a New Year gift for female passengers taking a long bus ride home by making their buses safer for them.

The company has joined hands with the Safe Cities for Women Network on various initiatives to curb sexual harassment on its buses. 

Bus drivers and conductors are being trained and educated on how to "butt in" when passengers are sexually harassed and a video educating passengers on how to protect themselves is also being shown on the company's entire fleet of 480 buses throughout the year, starting yesterday. 

"This is a new year present for everyone who travels with us," said Jirasak Yaowatsakul, managing director of the Transport Company at a campaign launch at its Bangkok bus terminal in Chatuchak yesterday. 

Jirasak says hundreds of thousands of passengers pack into the company's buses during the New Year holiday - on its peak days, December 29 and 30, as many as 200,000 passengers are expected to travel from Bangkok to their hometowns, compared to some 80,000 passengers on usual days.

The company and the Safe Cities for Women network also plan to install a CCTV camera inside every one of the buses to record incidents for use as evidence by mid-2019, Jirasak said.

QR code signs will also be put inside the bus, to encourage passengers to report more often since it is considered that incidents of sexual harassment are underreported, he added.

Bus conductor Maychadathon Visungre told The Nation such incidents happen frequently. 

Maychadathon, who rides on buses between Bangkok and Mukdahan, said most of these incidents either involve a male passenger resting their head on the shoulder of a fellow passenger or a male passenger in the window seat getting in and out to the aisle to get their bags "so that their body touches that of the female passenger," she said. 

From her experience, most [female] passengers don't keep quiet when such incidents happen - but all they do is ask to switch seats, she said.

Maychadathon, who has been trained by Safe Cities for Women, said she always tells her boss when something like that happens and asks the female passenger involved to get another seat in order to prevent it happening again. If the incident gets out of hand, she asks the male driver to stop the vehicle and resolve the issue. 

In Bangkok 45 per cent of female passengers reported being sexually harassed, according to a 2017 survey by Safe Cities for Women Network, of which 15.4 per cent reported being touched or groped. 

"It is our commitment to make public transportation and public spaces safe for women and girls," said ActionAid Thailand director Tauhid Ibne Farid. The organisation is supporting 45 countries in campaigns to make it safe for women to travel in cities. 

In Thailand, the Safe Cities for Women Network comprises ActionAid Thailand, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Sexuality Studies Association, Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, and the Four Regions Slum Network. The network plans to partner with other government transport agencies, including the Marine Department and Land Transport Department, said Rungtip Imrungruang, programme and policy manager at ActionAid Thailand. She said they had also recruited 800 passengers to join "teampueak," meaning a "nosy" team, where its members learn how to safely protect others from sexual harassment on public transport.

On the website, the network also educate "teampueak" and bus assistants on how to correctly deal with the incident. 

The campaign will soon extend to a further 40,000 buses, run by private companies under the contract with the Transport Company, Jirasak said.

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