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Sexual harassment on tube set to become election issue?

Reports of sexual harassments on London transport has increased by 40 per cent in the last year. This is an issue that is becoming increasingly important in London’s mayoral election in May.

Overcrowding at Victoria Underground Station Credit // Pawandeep Dosanjh

Overcrowding at Victoria Underground Station
Credit // Pawandeep Dosanjh

The man in the opposite seat stared at her. He then asked her to sit next to him. He continued to talk to her and she was ignoring him. She knew she had to pass him to leave the crowded train, but she had no choice. When she passed him, she felt a slap on her bottom.

Most women have experienced sexual harassment like that described above. “I don’t take the tube anymore, or at least I try to avoid it,” the girl still in her teenage years admits. More analogous episodes are happening daily on crowded London transport. What will London’s upcoming Mayoral candidates do to solve this problem?

Victims who have shared their experiences with the Everyday Sexism Project repeatedly state how sexual harassment, has affected their confidence in London’s public places. For instance, Alice* expressed how cautious she has become when using the tube, after one experience left her uncomfortable when using public transport.

 

The effect that this behavior has on victims is psychological distress and anxiety. Furthermore, it violates their dignity, creating an intimidating, hostile degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, according to Citizen Advice.

There were 1,603 reports between April and December 2015 to the police, compared to 1,117 in the same period in 2014. Transport for London’s (TfL) “Report It to Stop It” campaign has revealed that this has resulting in an increase of 40 per cent in arrests including offences such as rubbing, groping, masturbation, leering, sexual comments, indecent acts or the taking of photographs without consent.

Sexual harassment is just one of the many crimes Londoner’s experience on a daily basis, as theft and handling activities are circulating the underground lines. These common issues are caused by one major evolving problem that the capital faces.

London’s population is rapidly growing far faster than anticipated. By 2031 it is expected to reach 10 million, meaning that 1.8m more people will be living and working in the British Capital, according to TfL. As the number of people is rising, the government is trying to handle this overcrowding situation by maximizing the capacity of the existing lines.

The London mayoral candidates may not be fully aware on sexual harassment within London transport. However, they are completely aware on the crowded issues and have spoken to the public on ways they will tackle the ongoing problem.

With the 5th of May 2016 approaching, the London’s mayoral election is widely seen as a two person battle.

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The pledge to deliver a reduction in overcrowding on the underground by investing in London’s transport system, is the Conservative Party candidate for the future mayoral election, Zac Goldsmith. He revealed in his campaign, investment will increase capacity on key lines that are under pressure, such as the Circle Line, District Line, Hammersmith & City Line and Metropolitan Line – by 33%. In addition, there will be an increase of capacity to the 25% on the Northern line.

A better service and reduce overcrowded trains is also promised by Sadiq Khan, Labour Party candidate for the future mayoral election. He, first of all, highlighted the fact that transport is a key issue for Londoners. Additionally, he answered the public consultation regarding Crossrail 2:  “It will provide much needed additional capacity to the important SW London – Central London – NE London corridor, and relieve pressure on overcrowded overground and underground routes”.

However, it will take years before seeing an improvement in capacity and a decrease of overcrowded London transports. This means that incidents of sexual harassment and other crimes such as theft will keep occurring.

To reduce these experiences the police announced that reporting rates have risen thanks to the successful campaign ‘Report it to Stop it’ encouraging passengers to report unwanted sexual behavior. Involved in this campaign are Transport for London, Transport Police, the Met and City of London Police. Therefore, the best thing after, or while being sexually harassed in public transports, is to text, what, where and when to 61016, so that the British Transport Police have an attempt to track these offenders.

The teenager girl that recounted the story of the man that unwanted touched her bottom added two more points: “ If I will be unfortunate enough again to experience a sexual harassment on public transport, I will definitely contact the London transport Police. But in the mean time, I really hope that the future mayor of London will undertake actions to improve the London transport capacity, the trains, for example, are packed, and if someone is sexually harassing you it is difficult to understand whether is just a mistake or not.”

* Alice has been used as a replacement name to hide victim’s identity.

 

*Participate in our ‘Sexual harassment on London tube’ Westminster World Survey by clicking on link below (note: all responses will be anonymous)

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/6D5NWSV

 

 

 

Words: Shirly Bumaguin 

Survey: Shirly Bumaguin 

Sub-editor: Pawandeep Dosanjh

Audio and Video: Pawandeep Dosanjh

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