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Sexual harassment on buses all too common

Update: October, 19/2017 - 09:00
Passengers get on a bus in central HCM City. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Phàn
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — Third-year university student Dương Huyền in Hà Nội has never been inappropriately touched by a stranger, but she has seen it happen.

“It was on a bus at about 10am,” she said. “The bus was full, and I saw this forty-something man who kept brushing himself against a young woman of 20-25.”

The woman did not react and got off the bus at the next station, Huyền said. “The man then moved on to another young woman that was standing nearby and did it again. This time the woman yelled, and the man got thrown off the bus.”

Sexual harassment, robbery and poor customer services are the major issues with the public bus system that were discussed at a conference on the effects of public sexual harassment, domestic violence and school violence on women and girls in HCM City on Tuesday, the Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reported.

The teenage daughter of Phương Thị Bích Phụng, head of a crime prevention club in District 4, recently decided to take xe ôm (motorbike taxis) with female drivers to school instead of buses because she was afraid of getting groped like some of her friends.

“Lots of stories of teenage girls being sexually harassed on buses have been brought to my attention,” Phụng said. “Public buses are definitely not safe for girls.”

Nguyễn Ngọc Long, head of a women’s association in District 3, said that despite the low cost of travelling by bus, few women use them because of the risk of harassment. “There aren’t enough lights at the bus stations, which increases the risks of robbery and sexual harassment,” she said.

Nguyễn Thị Quyết Tâm, chairwoman of the city’s People’s Council, said that bus drivers and driver assistants should be more customer-oriented. Once when she was sitting on a bus, she called out to the driver and asked him to stop at a station so that she could get off, Tâm said.

“The driver’s assistant immediately barked at me: ‘You’re talking too much! Leave your seat and stand near the door,’” she said. “Such a good way to lose customers.”

To improve the bus system’s service quality, the city recently replaced 500 out of 3,000 old buses with new ones and installed 4,000 security cameras on the 3,000 buses, said Hà Lê Ân, deputy director of the HCM City Urban Transport Management and Operation Center.

“We monitor the security cameras with internet connections,” he added. “Women who get threatened by thieves or sexually harassed can reach us via the hotline number 1022 and request an intervention from the police.”

Trần Vĩnh Tuyến, vice chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee, said that the city also requested its youth union to deploy youths to assist senior citizens and stop women and girls from being harassed on buses.

Untreated psychological trauma

Although domestic violence leaves serious physical and psychological damages on women, many won’t admit to having experienced it, said Nguyễn Thị Thanh Luận, chairwoman of the women’s association of Thủ Đức District.

“Doctors can easily recognise and identify the causes of this physical damage, but these women don’t admit it, probably because they fear embarrassment,” she said. “Hospitals and clinics should provide support for women and girls that have been abused.”

Doctor Lê Thị Mỹ Châu from the city’s Department of Health said that doctors should be trained to probe into psychological issues that patients don’t share.

Shelters should be established in the city for victims sexual harassment and physical abuse, she added. Police should be present at these shelters to protect the victims.

School violence is another pressing issue that is often overlooked, said Nguyễn Ngọc Toàn of Gò Vấp District, a mother of a high school student. The bullied do not only get beaten but also isolated, threatened, stripped, filmed and ridiculed on the internet, which leads to panic, fear, and sometimes suicidal thoughts, she said.

“There’s no way to control the bullies since the Criminal Law does not apply to minors, and the Law on Children does not set fines for bullying,” she added.

Lots of students commit suicide due to being bullied, said Nguyễn Thị Đào, head of a woman’s association in Bình Thạnh District.

“There are consultants at school, but they are teachers who take consultancy as a side job, not psychiatrists with a proper psychological background,” she said. — VNS

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