Public transport is something many people use to commute to and from work on a daily basis. There are a number of reasons why public transport is popular, from saving money to helping the environment or simply because there is no car available for a private commute each day.
New research by Sonke Gender Justice has found that there is a direct correlation between time spent on public transport and the extent to which women and girls in the Western Cape are exposed to the risk of rape and sexual assault. The report documents the experiences of women and girls as commuters, and gender-based violence, sexual harassment and crime perpetrated against them while using the Cape’s and Gauteng’s public transport.
Throughout the study, women and girls recorded their experiences of harassment and sexual assault while boarding or walking to – or waiting for – public transit. This includedmen masturbating or rubbing their genitals on women’s bodies on crowded trains, buses, and minibus taxis. The research was conducted as a response to the large number of personal experiences shared by commuters using minibus taxis, selected buses, and Metrorail trains.
The report found that lack of gender-responsive planning in urban transportation and urban development had a major impact on the mobility, frequency of use, safety and personal safety of commuters, particularly women, adolescents and children. Factors such as trains stopping unexpectedly, along with delayed and unreliable services were some of the issues female commuters reported.
A high proportion of the total respondents from both provinces – 88% – thought they were at risk of being sexually harassed orgroped on a crowded train, bus or taxi.
The most common form of sexual assault is reported to be rape by minibus taxi drivers in taxis, or at taxi ranks. Many women also reported that they were driven to remote locations off the usual taxi route, or during the night.