Stating that 83 percent women face abuse from public transport staff on the streets, Road Safety Foundation yesterday called for formulating a gender-responsible guideline for the transport sector.
The non-government organisation working for road safety also recommended providing training to drivers and helpers of public transport on gender and road safety issues.
The foundation organised the roundtable titled “Safety of Women in Public Transport” at Bangladesh Press Institute auditorium in the capital, attended by road safety experts and rights activists, among others.
In his keynote speech, Saidur Rahman, executive director of the foundation, citing a research, said 83 percent women received abusive comments from public transport staff on roads.
“But such physical and mental harassment on women are often ignored, and women fail to understand from where and how they can get respite,” he said.
In absence of specific law to stop sexual harassment in public transports, victims allegedly do not get remedy even from police, rather they have to face unpleasant questions, he said.
In February, the foundation carried out a survey on 1,100 women who use public transport in Dhaka and came up with the numbers, Saidur said.
Jobeda Khatun, assistant professor of Dhaka University’s Clinical Psychology department, said many women become depressed due to abuse they face while using public transport.
“Journey on public transport is a traumatic experience for many women,” she said.
She recommended providing training and necessary mental counselling to transport workers as many of them are in poor mental health.
Kamran Ul Baset, the head of Road Safety and Driving School at Brac, said the transport sector is highly male-dominated and more women have to be inducted to the sector to change the scenario.
He said institutional training and more research are required for transport workers, and not only government but also other stakeholders of the sector should come forward in this regard.
He also observed that the government should take initiatives right now to make the metro rail woman-friendly.
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua, also the foundation’s vice chairman, said although different problems of the transport sector are being discussed widely, problems faced by women in the sector are rarely discussed.
He also said transport workers need to be brought to mainstream of the society and need to be given proper respect and facilities, instead of only blaming them.
Jana Goswami, advocacy director of the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, said transport system of Dhaka is not women-friendly, and even the routes and timing of women-only buses are not woman-friendly.
The foundation also recommended installing CCTV and vehicle tracking systems in all public transports, carrying out campaigns in media by the government about women’s safety, and enactment of necessary law and its implementation to stop harassment of women in public transportation.
Hosne Ara Begum of gender justice and diversity programme of Brac; Rajekuzzaman Ratan, president of Samajtantrik Sramik Front; Abu Bakar Siddique, deputy general manager of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation; and MS Siddiqui, the federation’s another vice-chairman, among others, spoke the programme with Jyotirmoy in the chair.