Ecuador’s capital, Quito, has stepped up its fight against sexual harassment by expanding a campaign to protect victims on public transport, which has so far led to four people being sentenced with sentences ranging from one to three years in prison .
Alarming statistics from the UN Women two years ago, the campaign “Bájale al haroso” was born after knowing that 81% of women consider to have been harassed in public transport and 91% in public spaces, according to the president of the San patronato San José, María Fernanda Pacheco.
Pacheco told Efe that public transport has more than a million passengers a day, which means that 70% of the active population uses municipal transport.
Although the booths to receive denunciations placed in certain stations some time ago have given result, it was verified that for being a delicate situation, due to lack of time, by the fear and by shame, the victims did not always present the denunciation. There were 400 in over two years.
Now the word HARNESS and the number of the unit in a free text message by the cell phone to the number 6367 arrives at an operations center that communicates immediately with the driver of the transport and an alarm is activated.
While the loudspeakers announce: “At this moment, a sexual harassment situation has been registered inside this transport unit. We ask the passengers to be alert and respect those who are by their side”, the operations center calls for a prosecutor of the next station and to the metropolitan police.
At the same time, the center will call the victim to continue: not to proceed in legal proceedings, to disembark from the unit and at the next point to be accompanied to make the complaint at that moment or, if desired, to do it later.
“The important thing is that there is a follow-up. On average, it takes us 58 seconds to respond to the caller’s complaint,” said Pacheco, pointing out that 560 cases have already been reported by women, and 24 of them have filed a lawsuit.
At the moment, a 67-year-old Ecuadorian who rubbed his erect sexual organ on the buttocks of a 47-year-old woman is serving a year in prison, the same penalty as a 42-year-old Colombian who ejaculated on the leg of a 16-year- transport.
The controller of a transport unit that touched the breasts and buttocks of a 39-year-old female user is serving 14 months in prison while appealing a three-year sentence against a 35-year-old man who laid his penis on the buttocks of a woman from 22.
The system, which has been in operation since last March, is available on 120 buses, planned for another 220 public transport units and, later, the possibility of denouncing possible cases in taxis through text messages.
Pacheco lamented that one assumes “as normal” the harassing behaviors. “In our city it is absolutely natural, and this has a direct consequence in the high statistics of feminicides, since such behavior in public transport supports others of violence in private spaces,” he explained.
That is why a change of behavior is indispensable, that the cases come to justice. The alarm on the bus promotes citizen awareness and social sanction.
“About 65% of the reported cases of harassment have told us that people around saw what happened and nobody did anything,” Pacheco said, commenting that this is happening “because it is normal, in large part, or because people are too busy or unwilling to get involved. ”
Pacheco, for whom what is important is that society is involved to break the circles of violence, ensured that the link of the central in response to the message of the victim is aimed at monitoring and protection.
And while the alarm brings about a change of attitude among the public transport passengers, five or six people, psychologists among them, attend the victim: man or woman, who sees messages on the bus as: “If they touch you without permission, if you they look and this bothers you, if they say you rude, denounce! “