Colombo, Feb 27 (NIA) – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), on Monday, said that following a nationwide study, 90% of women and girls in Sri Lanka had been subjected to sexual harassment on public buses and trains and only 4% sought help from the police.
UNFPA commissioned the national study in 2015, with a sample of 2,500 women and girls between the ages of 15-35 years, from all administrative districts of the nine provinces in Sri Lanka. Data was collected through stakeholder consultations, key informant interviews, and questionnaire surveys.
The findings saw that incidents of sexual harassment took place on public transport irrespective of travel distances. During the focus group discussions, it was noted that incidents were more likely to occur on long distance buses subjecting the victim to face harassment for longer periods of time.
It was also noted that incidents are more prevalent during peak hours (morning and evening) when transportation is more crowded. High congestion on buses or trains is a contributing factor for sexual harassment, particularly unwanted physical contact.
The survey further revealed that women and girls were often silent in instances of sexual harassment in public transport, because it was considered a ‘normal’ experience of travel.
“Awareness raising campaigns must be clear on the messaging that sexual harassment is a form of sexism, a criminal offence under Sri Lankan Penal Code, and that that it is the right of the individual to speak out and seek support. Any person, especially women and girls, who are victims of sexual harassment must feel empowered and safe to report a crime to local authorities through established strong response systems. It is recommended that a ‘Code of Conduct’ is developed for passengers travelling in public transport systems and ensure that there is display of the code of conduct inside buses and trains,” the survey revealed.