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Nearly 2,000 Ecuador Buses to Have Mechanism to Report Sexual Harassment Instantaneously

According to U.N. Women, 91 percent of women have experienced harassment. | Photo: Reuters According to U.N. Women, 91 percent of women have experienced harassment. | Photo: Reuters
At least 15 women suffered sexual harassment within one day while traveling in and around Ecuador's capital city of Quito, El Comercio reported in a new study.

So far, nearly 1,132 sexual harassment cases have been reported in the Trolleybus and Ecovia units and 100 reports in conventional buses.

Transportation company San Carlos Cooperatives confirmed the incidents took place while traveling on bus to and from Mitad del Mundo, or "Middle of the World," which is a popular tourist destination. 

Women said they experienced sexual innuendos, dirty words, improper gestures and inappropriate touching while traveling on bus.

According to Maria Fernanda Pacheco, program manager of an anti-harassment campaign, 35 such cases have been prosecuted, with 10 convictions. 

Perpetrators have received between 12 and 38 months of prison time. The highest sentence was received by a 41-year-old man who touched the genitals of an 11-year-old girl last month, El Comercio reported. 

Women said while using public transportation, people inside of the buses took advantage of the packed vehicles and tried to rub their private parts against their shoulder when they were sitting or rubbed against their buttocks while they were standing.   

Of the 100 cases reported, nearly 60 said they were inappropriately touched, while 25 confirmed they received uncomfortable gestures. At least 10 women said they heard sexual innuendos while five women did not want to comment on the situation they faced.  

As of now, women can use a text message alarm system through a mechanism installed on the bus if they are being harassed.

The alarm triggers a message designated for harassment along with the number of the bus unit. Upon receiving this message, a person at the central office receives the number of the unit and can investigate the case further through a database which lists the name of the bus unit and which bus terminal it started from along with the contact details of the bus driver for an immediate response. 

A Staggering 87% of Women in the US Sexually Harassed: Report

At least 397 buses have incorporated this mechanism. The services were extended to 1,438 private service buses as well. In the next few days, 562 additional private buses will be added. Thus, nearly 2,000 will feature ways to report sexual harassment instantaneously. 

After the driver is alerted, within 10 minutes, the victim receives a call from one of the psychologists, often on the other side of the telephone line, who can hear the case directly from the victim and offer help accordingly. On average, the service receives at least eight calls per day, between 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. So far, there are 28 bus cooperatives complying with the mechanism. 

"Here, on my bus, the stalkers have no place," Diego Quishpe, driver for the San Carlos company, told El Comercio. 

As part of the program, nearly 3,000 people, including drivers and collectors, have been trained to address harassment scenarios. 

Rocio Rosero, vice-minister of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, told El Comercio that one of the advantages of the campaign was that it gave immediate attention to the victims, but the aim of the program is to rid buses, bus stops, stations, streets and public space from harassment. 

"The day should come when women can feel safe wherever we go," Rosero said. 

According to U.N. Women, 91 percent of women have experienced harassment, with 27 percent of adolescents being harassed after leaving school. Roughly 43 percent said they had been victims of verbal harassment and 39 percent said they were physically harassed. 

Eleven percent said they saw a passenger taking pictures of their body and eight percent had seen a man showing or manipulating their genitals inside the unit.

  • Countries: Latin America

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