Sexual harassment in public transport in Bogotá

Elsevier, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Volume 139, September 2020, pp. 54-69
Lina Marcela Quinones

Although the last decades have seen an advance in equality and empowerment for women, there are still numerous challenges to be addressed. Among them, and particularly pressing in cities, are issues of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment in public spaces. Despite the numerous effects that street harassment has on women, and the high incidence of it in different countries, this issue has not been broadly studied, and even less so in cities in the Global South. This study aims to characterise the ways in which women in Bogotá experience sexual harassment in public spaces, specifically focusing on public transport and including vehicles, stations, stops and walking routes to and from their origins or destinations.

Focusing on this objective, this study made use of a mixed-method approach, including an online self-completing questionnaire, as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews. The data gathered showed that sexual harassment in public transport – and public space – is widespread in Bogotá, and intersections with age and class play a very important role. Additionally, episodes of sexual harassment are widely under-reported, and there is a general perception that reporting is useless, which is supported by accounts of women who have tried to report an incident and have faced several difficulties. Finally, policies proposed so far in Bogotá have been unsuccessful in reducing sexual harassment in public transport and, in many cases, do not tackle the problem. Consequently, a comprehensive set of policies aimed at preventing and reducing sexual harassment in different spaces associated with public transport must be put in place.