The United Nations Fund for Population Activity (UNFPA) Sri Lanka highlighted that bystander intervention which was lacking at present was of utmost importance when it came to tackling the issue of sexual harassment in public transportation.

The UNFPA will be launching their public campaign on sexual harassment against women in public transport titled ‘Does She Travel Safe’ on February 27 when they will also launch a policy brief on addressing the issue.

In an island-wide study and survey conducted in 2015, the UNFPA had found that 90% of women and girls were sexually harassed when travelling on buses and trains, and only four per cent sought help by informing the law enforcement authorities.

‎Strategic Communications and Advocacy Analyst at the UNFPA Sri Lanka, Randima Jayasinghe pointed out that there were a number of contributing factors in relation to the matter.

“Behavioural change is required on the part of the victims and bystanders,” she explained.
“This is a social issue which is not spoken about much. This cannot be changed overnight. Victims must be able to speak up. Bystanders can help prevent such incidents,” she added.

The UNFPA Sri Lanka notes that “sexual harassment violates basic human rights and contributes to a culture that discriminates women and girls, thereby affecting them physically, psychologically and economically. The issues also involve women and girls facing varied degrees of physical and verbal abuse, which may even lead to incidents of rape.”

Another psychological impact of gender based violence including sexual harassment is that the victims may internalize the abuse and blame themselves. RLJ