31 October 2019
About 150 commuters gathered at the Cape Town central train station on Thursday calling for safer public transport for women and children.
Organised by civil society organisations Sonke Gender Justice and #UniteBehind, protesters wore bicycle helmets and bandages, blew whistles and sang in the station. Some held placards against gender-based violence (GBV): “End GBV on trains” and “Women are being victimised”.
“In public transport, safety is ignored” said Zanele Mabaso of Sonke Gender Justice. “You have the right to privacy. You have the right to freedom of movement. But each time you step into a Metrorail train, those rights are violated.”
She said that because the trains are overcrowded, women are being groped and pick-pocketed. In taxis, she said, women are touched and harassed.
Using a projector, a short video was aired in the train station. The video showed crowds of people squeezing into packed trains and a number of women sharing their experiences of using public transport, saying they had been harassed, robbed and attacked.
Findings in a report by Sonke Gender Justice released on 31 October said that women and girls were likely to be pickpocketed or robbed during peak hours on public transport. The report, based on interviews with 1,012 respondents from the Western Cape and Gauteng, said that women were afraid to use public transport at night.
Protesters then marched to Parliament to read and hand over a memorandum of demands, asking Parliament’s Transport Committee to make a commitment to address gender-based violence, with safety plans for all public transport, including taxis and buses, also trained security guards and temporary Metrorail carriages for women and children only.
The memorandum was collected and signed by an official of the National Assembly.
Mabaso said they would expect a response within a week.