The action, taking place at the tail end of transport month on the 31st October 2019 at the Cape Town Station will see activists, public transport commuters and other road users share their experiences and converging to demand authorities to address their collective concerns. The action will be followed by a march to parliament, where a memorandum of demands to address gender-based violence, safety and security and other intersecting issues experienced by public transport commuters and road users alike will be handed over.
The event will also see the release of a report on safety in public transport by Sonke Gender Justice. The report highlights the lived experiences of gender-based violence, sexual harassment, crime and safety issues shared by women and girls who utilise public transport, particularly the minibus taxis, busses and metro rail trains, in Western Cape and Gauteng.
Gender-based violence has been an issue of national concern recently and public transport is where women can find themselves in vulnerable situations, predominantly, due to the actions of men. What happens in public transport is a microcosm of larger societal issues. Women, young people, children, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups such as migrants, gender non-confirming persons, LGBTQIA+ community, women from poor households living commuting from peripheral areas) are affected the most when using public transport that is unsafe, inefficient and unreliable.
For many South Africans, public transport is an essential part of everyday life, and data from the National Household Travel Survey 2013 suggests that 3 out of 4 (76.7%) households in South Africa rely on public transport. Women are exposed to sexual harassment while using trains, busses and all forms of taxis, particularly mini-bus taxis.
#UniteBehind has run it’s #FixOurTrains campaign for the last two years, highlighting the issues women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities face on PRASA-run trains and has been calling for a commuter-centred safety plan as well as women and children-only carriages, fully-trained and properly registered security personnel, and effective reporting mechanisms for crime victims.
Sonke Gender Justice is calling for a National Safety in Public Transport Policy, that would address all issues relating to public transport in a holistic and comprehensive manner. The policy would include ensuring that public transport entities, key stakeholders, including relevant transport associations, address all the concerns of commuters, and institute safety plans, that prioritise the safety and overall security of women, children and vulnerable persons and address crime, violence and gender related issues on public transport.
Access to transport is also critical for growth and poverty reduction in South Africa, it is therefore urgent for government to address the safety, security, crime, violence and gender-related issues on public transport.
Some of the key findings and recommendations of the report will be discussed at the action, and education materials addressing public transport issues will be disseminated to all public transport commuters. We will also be hearing from women, young people and girls who have been affected by the current unsafe and unreliable forms of public transport.