To stop sexual harassment in public transport in Sri Lanka, start here. #viridualert

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In Sri Lanka, over 3 million people use public transport every day. Being the most economically viable option, many destinations in the country are connected only via public transportation making it the main source of transport for women and girls. The use public transport assists them in their daily routines which include having to travel to school, work, grocery stores, markets and homes.

But unfortunately, public transport is not the safest option for women and girls. Research reveals that a staggering 90% of women have been subjected to sexual harassment in local buses and trains.

Acts such as deliberate unsolicited touching, excessive closeness, rubbing body-parts, commonly take place in daily commute. But the harsh reality is, only 4% of those victims sought police assistance.

Although Sec 345 of the Penal Code, Sexual harassment constitutes “harassment of a sexual nature using assault, criminal force, or words or actions which causes annoyance to the person being harassed”, victims of sexual harassment in public transport have very rarely spoken out against such violations fearing repercussions and further humiliation. Predators often take advantage of these vulnerabilities faced by women and girls.

Women In Need, an organization dedicated to addressing gender based violence in Sri Lanka has now created a mobile app called 2six4, giving women, girls and bystanders the ability to inform selected contacts immediately when in need of help. It also connects you to the nearest police stations and the Police Women and Children’s Desk, at the press of a button. WIN has also partnered with Viridu (a form of narrative poetry native to Sri Lanka) singers to create awareness about this issue in public transport.

It’s time we all rise against sexual harassment, a cowardly act which is a violation of human rights. We urgently need a strong policy to address the issue of sexual harassment of women and girls in public transport, to make public transport safe for all citizens of Sri Lanka. We initiated this petition to humbly request the Government of Sri Lanka to take steps to keep our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends safe in public transport, treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

We hope you support and join our campaign.

This petition is started by Women In Need, in partnership with Ratthi.

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