Feeling Safer on The Metro – WMATA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign

A series of bi-lingual anti-harassment advertisements have been rolled out by the DC Metro (WMATA). This is a positive development for many commuters, including myself, who use metro trains and buses at all hours of the day. Particularly promising is the online reporting tool located at wmata.com/harassment – it allows for commuters to report incidents where they were sexually harassed directly to Metro Transit Police using a web-based form. Information submitted through the web portal is immediately transmitted to Metro Transit Police for follow-up action, and people who report incidents have the option of remaining anonymous. What’s even more commendable is that Metro provides an email address (harassment [at] wmata [dot] com) on the ad to allow commuters to send a picture or video files to assist an investigation. DC’s ad-campaign is modeled after Boston’s MBTA’s award-winning anti-sexual harassment reporting and awareness efforts. It also joins other public transportation operators in U.S. cities including New York City Transit and the Chicago Transit Authority who have sought to acknowledge and tackle this issue by issuing PSAs. Some cities, such as New Delhi, India where I grew up wary and discouraged to use public transportation because I was female, have tackled the issue of rampant sexual-harassment on their metro system by providing women-only train cars. It's an idea that is practical given the harsh realities of Delhi's female-unfriendly culture, yet flawed in theory because it doesn't serve as a deterrent to gender-based sexual harassment. The anti-harassment PSA's are now reportedly up in 28 metro stations and bus stops, so there's clearly a long way to go. Given that the campaign was launched in April, one can probably expect the Metro to roll this out more widely around the district. What do you think about this PSA campaign? Were you aware of this effort and have you seen an ad at your local metro stop?   Neha's interests lie in economic development, technology policy and ICT4D. She has grown up in India, Qatar and the UAE, and attended Mount Holyoke College. She works in government affairs and is also completing an MBA from the George Washington University School of Business. Her aspiration is to promote the use of technology to create and further opportunities for women and youth in developing countries. Her twitter handle is @shahnorama.     Photo Credit Orfgen via the Creative Commons License.

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