As South Africa kicks off Transport Month, Sonke Gender Justice calls on the National Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande to uphold government’s obligation to provide safe and secure transport for all South Africans.
While the constitution does not make explicit reference to the right to transport and access to safe public transport, this is intrinsically linked to the right to freedom and security of the person and the right to freedom of movement.
Safety on public transport is essential for men, women and children. However, unsafe conditions impact more on women and children. “Research shows that women and girls face daily risks on public transport, making safety a major concern for women and girls when using public transport,” says Nonhlanhla Skosana, Community Education and Mobilisation Manager, Sonke Gender Justice. “For Transport Month we want to call on government, the industry and passengers to take action on making public transport safer, not just for this month, but every day of the year.”
Metrorail in the Western Cape is in crisis and commuter safety compromised as a result. Attacks on passengers continue to be reported and as a member of the #UniteBehind coalition, Sonke calls on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to urgently adopt a commuter-centred safety and security plan.
The train crisis in South Africa impacts particularly on women’s mobility and safety in South Africa. “Lack of reliable train routes and train route closures result in women and children having to travel in the dark in the early mornings or late evenings (train station surroundings often lack lighting), compromising their personal safety and being vulnerable to potential violence and harassment in public spaces,” says Skosana.
Other issues such as lack of seating space, overcrowding and excessive congestion further increases the risk of exposure to harm. In addition, lack of effective systems for reporting violence, accountability mechanisms and theft in trains increases incidences of crime and violence in which women are targets and fuels fear of speaking out.
To raise awareness of the sexual harassment and gender-based violence perpetrated against women in taxis and at taxi ranks, a new radio drama series produced by Sonke, tackling gender-based violence in South Africa’s public taxis will be heard on radio stations across the country. The radio dramas are a response to widespread reports of incidents of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, physical violence, sexual assault and rape of girls and women while using taxis, by taxi drivers, queue marshals, and passengers.
There are about 550 000 taxi drivers in the country, who transport approximately 16 million passengers daily, making safer transport a national issue that affects almost everyone in the country.
Recognising the role of radio as a powerful medium to reach and influence communities, Sonke Gender Justice worked with Community Media for Development (CMFD) Productions to produce the Safe Ride! radio dramas in English, IsiZulu and Sesotho.
The dramas include discussion guides for radio presenters, to help them host discussions, ask questions, present accurate facts and dispel common myths associated with sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
“Through the Safe Ride! radio dramas, we address the urgent issue of gender-based violence in taxis in an entertaining and engaging way,” says CMFD Productions director Deborah Walter. “Listeners can talk about the characters and relate what happens to their own experiences. In this way we are helping to get people talking and asking questions about what everyone can do to make taxis safer.”
People can join in the conversation using the hashtag #SafeRide.
Sonke Gender Justice
Tel: +27 (0)21 423 7088
Community Education and Mobilisation Manager
Sonke Gender Justice
Tel: + 27 (0)78971 5477
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