Unsafe Public Transport A Daily Struggle For Jakarta Women

November 17, 2014 – Travelling at night alone can be an unsettling experience for many women throughout Asia – and in Jakarta, a recent poll survey showed that the Indonesian capital has one of the most unsafe transportation systems for women in the world. However, most crimes go unreported.

Millions of women in Jakarta rely on public transport to get home from work or school every evening. Feeling vulnerable to crime, and lacking trust in law enforcement, many are forced to take precautions themselves to stay safe. “The trick is to place valuables in a hidden area inside our bags. If possible, use handbags or bags worn over the shoulder. Don’t put cell phones in your pocket because it can easily be pickpocketed,” said one commuter.

Many female commuters in the capital also become more cautious when travelling during the crowded peak hour. When the buses are full, people can be seen almost dangling out the doors – and that is when men sometimes poke women or touch women’s bags. Occasionally, men also harass women in Metro Mini buses.

However, mini-vans or angkots, a vital form of transport for many, are the ones that have been linked to violent crime. At least eight women were kidnapped or raped by angkot drivers in Jakarta in 2012. At night, the streets as well as such mini-vans are fairly empty, and the only companion commuters have is the driver sitting in front. Thus, women passengers have to rely on their drivers to be trustworthy and bring them to their destination safe and sound.

In response, the Jakarta Transportation Agency has banned excessively tinted windows on angkots and plans to overhaul its business model to ensure better safety and security standards. Muhammad Akbar, head of the Jakarta Transportation Agency, said: “There will be a standardised system of operations, payment and public service on TransJakarta buses as well as non-TransJakarta buses. Therefore, we will be able to better control the recruitment of drivers and create a database of all drivers.” A range of other measures have also been introduced, including women-only carriages on trains with security guards, and CCTV cameras inside buses.

Despite the obvious dangers and the lengths to which authorities are trying to help female commuters, just five crimes were reported on the public system city-wide last year. According to Desti Murdijana, deputy chairperson of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, the low rate of crimes reported in public transport is proof of the barriers that exist for female victims – the stigma surrounding rape and sexual harassment cases and a lack of awareness and options when seeking help.

“Many women think twice in reporting their cases to the police, as most likely they are concerned that the process would be costly and take too much time. The victims could also doubt whether their case would ever be solved because they know that a majority of similar cases were left unsolved,” said Desti Murdijana.

She added that she wants more trains and buses to prevent over-capacity to reduce the risk of crime – which is just one small possible answer to a problem the whole city needs to address.

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