NTSA launches campaign to stop SGBV in public transport
As Kenyans marked 16 days of activism, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has unveiled a campaign to end sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in public transport vehicles in Kenya.
The campaign dubbed ‘Nganyas are Safe’ is a joint initiative by NTSA and a women’s rights organization- Equality Now.
‘Nganyas are Safe’ campaign was launched at Embassava Sacco by NTSA Deputy Director and Head of Enforcement Hared Adan and Equality Now Africa Director Faiza Mohamed.
According to Adan, victims/passengers can report cases of sexual harassment in public service vehicles via 0709 932 000 toll free line or NTSA app and action taken within 24 hours.
He noted victims are often touched inappropriately in matatus and suffer in silence because of lack of places to report such incidents.
Adan pointed out that, people think that it is a joke and also think that it is okay to normalize such abuses.
“Sexual harassment is actually a crime and people need to report and action taken against the perpetrators,” said Adan.
Coincidentally, the campaign was launched at Embassava Sacco stage where an incident of sexual harassment occurred resulting in another campaign dubbed “My Dress My Choice”.
The protests saw women march in solidarity with women who were stripped by the touts.
“Problem of sexual assault and harassment has been increasing in public transport sector affecting male and female passengers hence the need for awareness,” said Adan.
He added that, though Kenya does not have a dedicated database for dealing with instances of SGBV on public transport, the campaign means victims will be getting the assistance they need.
“We are also encouraging school going children who also use public service vehicles to report incidences of sexual harassment to teachers or parents by getting the number plates of the vehicle,” he added.
Equality Now Africa Director expressed concern over the increasing cases of sexual and gender based violence in public transport sector calling for a concerted effort to end it.
“Though SGBV previously has been in private spaces, in recent times there has been an outright escalation of this threat in public spaces especially transport,” she said.
Mohammed expressed shock over an incident in November where a matatu driver raped two passengers in separate attacks in Nakuru, including a 15-year-old girl.
“These are few of many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted on public transport vehicles, and is part of Kenya’s broader problem with SGBV,” she noted.
In July this year, three men were sentenced to death for stripping and robbing a female passenger inside a Githurai bus three years ago.
The three; driver Nicholas Chege, conductor Meshack Mburu and petrol station attendant Edward Ndung’u.
The three appeared before chief magistrate Francis Andayi.
They were found guilty of robbing and sexually assaulting the woman on the night of September 19, 2014.
“What you thought was a joke should not be taken lightly as a woman’s privacy and decency should be respected at all times,” the magistrate noted.
For the offence of sexual assault, each of the attackers was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
The attack took place at Millennium petrol station in Githurai 44, Nairobi County, where the woman lost Ksh41, 700.
She commended law enforcers and Judiciary for being steadfast in arresting and jailing suspects respectively found culpable of sexual and gender based violence offences.
“We applaud the recent court decision to sentence a matatu driver, conductor and a pump attendant to 25 years each for sexual assaulting their female passengers, more needs to be done,” she added.
She commended NTSA for its collaboration adding it will help victims to report and air their voices easily.
“This campaign is part of our activities within the sixteen days of activism and seeks to make public service vehicles safe for girls and women,” she added.
Faiza added that, the long term goal of the partnership between NTSA and Equality Now is to establish a gender desk that people can call to access specialist support provided by staff trained to deal with SGBV issues.
Despite its success, and prosecutions of the culprits, indecent violations are still rife however in public transport with the latest reports indicating an escalation to include rape of passengers including minors en route to their destinations.
Mohammed noted that, harassment can also be verbal where someone speaks to you in a manner that is over sexualized.
“They need not to even touch you but when they talk to you with a sexual innuendo that is sexual harassment,” noted Mohammed.
On his part, Embassava Sacco Society Senior Supervisor David Makambo welcomed the campaign promising to enforce the code of conduct and transport regulations.
“We are welcoming the campaign and remain committed to helping eradicate this vice of sexual harassment and gender based violence in public vehicles,” said Makambo.
Makambo indicated that, the rogue drivers, conductors and sacco staffs found culpable of such incidents will face disciplinary action including dismissal and prosecution in accordance with the law.