Harassment against women in public transport, a crime that is not punished
Security instances have no complaints about it. Cases exist but victims prefer not to tell about them
By Fernanda Padilla
It was past nine o’clock. The light was scarce in the Historic Center. I accelerated my step, crossed the street to get to Bellas Arts. I waited about 10 minutes for my bus. From the Alameda, I make an hour of my way to my house. Already in the seats of the truck, three women came up who settled theirselves behind me.
I chose to sit forward because my address is located at the end of the route. I took the window seat. Soon a man shifted from the back to stand beside me. I did not see his face well, but I could almost say he was over 50 years old.
As he sat down, he opened his legs, as if he had no one beside him. Annoyed because he did not respect my space, I stuck to the window. A few seconds passed when the man insisted on moving at my side. An internal alarm went off in me. It was not the first time it happened to me.
Two years ago I lived a similar situation, a man sat next to me, put his jacket on his hands and used to touch my leg, the reaction I had at that moment was immediate: I stuck my umbrella against him, so he got out of the bus, and my screams against him alarmed the other passengers who only saw it as if it were not in their hands to do anything. The occasion that I now tell was different.
The feeling that he struck his body against mine paralyzed me, a fear that had not lived in years ran my body, nervous even with shame I could only get my phone to try to take a picture of him, but when he realized my intention went down immediately from the bus. I was disappointed of not catching her face, but at least I managed to get him gone.
The nerve I had at that moment turned into crying, impotence and anger. “Why did not you do anything?”, I questioned myself. I came to think that having put on a dress that day was a very bad decision. Neither my clothes, nor the hour, nor the route or the seat were responsible for that man feeling the right to attack me.
Regrettably, women do not usually do anything about this or any other type of aggression, since we are “programmed” to endure them with dignity or as Sabina Berman suggests “to tolerate misogyny meekly”.
The assaults of sexual harassment that are discussed in the public transportation in San Luis Potosí are not reported, according to the deputy prosecutor in Sexual Crimes Care, Magdalena González Vega.
“We reviewed our data, but because of sexual harassment in public transport we do not have, there are many complaints of abuse, harassment, but in public transport, the only one we have is the same guy that assaulted two people in a personnel bus”.
The official said that they are “in an intensive program of restructuring in the sub-prosecution to take care of all those details”, and thus encourage women to report this or any kind of violence.
Without data but with cases
Although there are no records of harassment complaints in public transport, it does not mean that abuses of this type are not committed.
La Orquesta obtained testimonies from women who suffered bouts of harassment. Their names were changed to take care of the identity of the protagonists.
Ana is a 22 year old girl, student of the Habitat faculty at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí. She recounted what she experienced a year ago when she used the bus she takes daily to get home.
“That day I had a lot of pressure in school for some tests that I had to give, I left the school and took a bus that takes me to the Alameda. There I have to take another to get to my house, I was thinking a thousand things, at that moment I did not realize that a guy was seeing me sharply, until a friend told me, I did not pay much attention to him, one sometimes has to get used to being seen ugly, although they should not. Behind the Museum of the Railroad, the guy also went down and waited near me to board the next truck. When I stopped the next bus he got close to me and touched my vagina, I was paralyzed. He ran and I just cried, has been one of the worst experiences I’ve ever lived, it’s not right to be seen as an object and transgressing your rights. “
When asked if she denounced the act, Ana acknowledged that she did not because of the lack of confidence she has with the authorities. “No, if sometimes I’m afraid of the way the cops see me, besides, if they do not do anything for the women murdered, raped, imagine with my case, I just had to put up with it”.
María, 27 years old, works in the Industrial Zone. She usually moves in his own car to the company, however, she narrated an occasion when she faced a situation with a taxi driver.
“I lost my car and the horror came, I had to get to work, I did not have another choice, I had to go in a taxi. I was arranged to be presentable and comfortable, I do not understand why men think we do it for them or that their compliments bother us”.
I left my house, took the taxi that happened first. I’ll be honest, I did not even notice the number. On the way he began to tell me that I looked very pretty, if I had arranged for the boyfriend and a thousand other things. At first I ignored it, but then their insinuations began to rise, to the degree that I was wondering how I liked to do it (sex). What does he care, I told him I was not comfortable with the topic of conversation. He apologized but kept insisting. To the extent that I did not answer, but when I went down I found out ‘you’re very rich, mamita, you left me an erection’. He did not touch me or anything like that, but I felt disgusted, very angry”.
Like Ana and María, thousands more women have experienced this and other types of violence within transportation. Such is the case of Rosa Margarita Ortíz Macías, who reported that she was raped while traveling in a bus of the ETN line in June of 2016.
The victim reported the fact by means of a video posted on the Facebook page of former PRI deputy, Adolfo Micalco Méndez, her husband.
Ortíz Macías documented in the video that after the Tepotzotlán shed, in the State of Mexico, two armed men got on the unit and assaulted the passengers. In addition one of them hit her, raped her and threatened her. The victim also noted that the driver was an accomplice of the criminals.
Another case that shook the potosinos was that of the young woman attacked a few weeks ago in a truck transporting personnel.
The woman was brutally assaulted with a white weapon, and was left with wounds that exposed most of her body. In addition to being tortured, she was raped and left for dead, however, managed to survive.
From the same aggressor came another case that was carried out with the same modus operandi a week earlier against another woman, who recognized the unit where the second victim was attacked.
Public or private transportation?
One of the alternatives that is used by women to face the lack of preparation of the drivers, as well as the null security guarantees offered by public transport, is private services. But a few days ago a tragedy triggered the doubt about them.
This is the case of Mara Fernanda Castilla Miranda, a 19-year-old native of Veracruz, who was in her second year in Political Science at the Autonomous Popular University of the State of Puebla (UPAEP).
The victim went out to have fun with her friends. Shortly after 05:00 in the morning she asked for a Cabify service car.
The driver, identified as Ricardo Alexis Diaz, arrived minutes later and the girl advised her sister that she was on the way home. Never arrived.
A week later Mara’s body was located in a glen, the driver of the unit took her to a motel near the victim’s home, where he abused her and then strangled her to finally leave her body.
Is harassment a crime?
According to the Penal Code of the State, San Luis Potosí is one of the entities where this type of aggression is criminalized.
Article 180 indicates that commits the offense of sexual harassment, which, for lewd purposes, besieges, harasses or solicits favors of a sexual nature to a person of either sex, either for himself or for a third party, with the threat of causing the victim harm related to the expectations that may have in the labor, educational, domestic or any other field, or deny him a benefit to which he is entitled; whether between superior or inferior hierarchical, between equals or in any circumstance involving subordination.
This crime can be punished with a penalty of one to three years imprisonment and a fine of one hundred to three hundred minimum wages.
In addition, Article 181 marks the offense of sexual harassment, which in abusive exercise of power that leads to a state of defenselessness and risk to the victim, harasses or demands acts of a sexual nature for lewd purposes, regardless of whether it is performed in one or more events.
In case the victim of the crimes referred to in this chapter is less than eighteen, the penalty will be three to five years imprisonment and the pecuniary sanction of three hundred to five hundred minimum salary.
Article 182 also states that if the harasser is a public servant and uses means or circumstances that the charge provides, in addition to the penalty provided in the previous paragraphs, he is removed from office.
In case of recidivism in any of the cases, imprisonment of two to seven years will be imposed.
This crime shall be prosecuted at the request of the offended, unless the victim is under eighteen years of age, in which case it shall be prosecuted ex officio.
Obliged to use transportation
In the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study “The Why of the Gender and Transportation Relationship”, IT notes that in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 50% of the users of public transportation systems are women. This research highlights that not all systems are designed taking into account gender needs and perspectives.
The document indicates that at least 40% of the women interviewed in México City modify their dress to avoid any type of violence in the Metro. 4.5%, even has left his work or study because of violence in the Collective Transportation System.
Another alarming piece of research is that México City is the city with the most dangerous transportation system for women in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the ranking continues Bogotá, Colombia, and Lima, Perú.
In addition the United Nations (UN) indicates that:
“Violence in public spaces, particularly in public transport systems, reduces the freedom of movement of women and girls. It reduces their ability to attend school or work and to participate fully in public life. It limits their access to essential services and to enjoy cultural and leisure opportunities. It also has a negative impact on their health and well-being”.
32 of each 100
According to data from the National Survey on the Dynamics of Household Relations (Endireh) 2011, 32 out of every 100 women in the country reported having suffered some of the violent acts that take place in public spaces or in common use.
According to the Endireh, half the women in the city report violence at the community level. The most frequent forms are compliments or offensive sentences of a sexual nature that annoy and offend women (73.7%) and improper touches (58.2%). In addition, 13.8% say they have been afraid of being sexually assaulted (13.8%).
Last year, the Municipal Public Security Bureau started with the “Safe Transport” program, with the aim of preventing crime, preventing sexual harassment or improper acts inside public transport units.
In the scheme of this device in which officers from Municipal Forces and Highway Police, who have the power to address at any time and at any point, the units to carry out prevention reviews.
None of the women interviewed by La Orquesta acknowledged that this type of support exists, in addition to insisting that at no time have they come to witness such an inspection.
The member of the Citizens’ Bureau of Analysis and Monitoring of the Process of Request for Alert of Gender Violence, Arely Torres Miranda, pointed out that the State Department of Communications and Transport (SCT) “has had a disorder for a long time, they had promised to implement security cams, but they doesn’t work yet. Another one of the demands of the society was to put panic buttons and it has not been fulfilled that. They had promised a lot of things that are still not fulfilled and the secretary (Ramiro Robledo Lopez) has always washed his hands off “.
She considered that much greater security in the taxis should be implemented, “several comrades have not done a denounce at formal level, but in social networks it is very common to read these stories of terror that have lived harassment or attempts of violence”.
The activist recalled that in the state are being violated the rights of women despite having a Gender Alert, where safe mobility must be ensured.
“That message was clear in the responses that the officials gave after the attack on the young girl transporting personnel, they all washed their hands off, ‘I do not authorize transportation, I do not have the record, I don’t know who he is’, it is regrettable how they wash their hands so that they do not take the blame and nobody takes the commitment.
Torres Miranda lamented that women have to implement security measures to be safer in transport, this being an obligation of the authorities, “especially because harassment in transportation is a fact”.
Nobody knows what to do
Arely Torres added that few people know how to act in a harassment case, including drivers.
“It is more common for transport users to react, but what training do they have for this type of violence against women of harassment and abuse by a driver? The person in charge should react and have training as it is their duty to report any anomaly”.
She denounced that the Ministry of Communications and Transportation should be implementing training and measures “but it is something that is not doing and is not interested in doing.”
Torres Miranda also indicated that the government of Juan Manuel Carreras López “has been characterized by the contempt with which its officials refer to violence, starting with the prosecutor and the deputy prosecutor… That clear message of disdain for life and the dignity of women that reflects the civil servant every act“.