More than 60% of female adolescents who use public transport in the capital become victims of some form of harassment, said a recent survey by the Aachol Foundation.
The survey, "Harassment on Public Transportation in Dhaka City and its Effect on Women's Mental Health", was done on a total of 805 women, the social welfare organisation said at a virtual press briefing on Friday.
Of the total participants, 68.4% were between 19 and 24 in age, and 13.2% were between 13 and 18. More than 85% of the participants were students.
Around 69.44% of participants used public transport, 6.58% used company-owned vehicles, and 2.73% used privately-owned vehicles.
Bus was the most common mode of public transportation. Around 84.10% of those using public transport used buses, 4.58% used trains, 1.53% used ride-sharing services, and 3.27% used CNG-driven auto-rickshaws.
According to the survey data, 63.4% of the participants have been subjected to various forms of harassment on public transport in the last six months.
Of those, 46.5% said they had been sexually harassed, 15.3% went through bullying, 15.2% faced social inequality discrimination, 14.9% gender inequality, and 8.2% faced body shaming.
Sexual harassment is one of the biggest problems on public transport, the study found.
Around 75% of women who have been sexually harassed say they have been harassed by other passengers, while 20.4% said they had been exposed to such incidents by the bus helpers.
The survey also found that 3% were sexually harassed by hawkers and 1.6% by drivers. Ordinary passengers are largely responsible for making public transport unsafe.
Among women facing sexual harassment, 11.92% experienced unwanted touches. Incidents of sexual harassment occurred more in crowded buses, the survey found.
According to the victims of sexual harassment, 34.8% remained silent due to fear, 20.4% started to avoid public transport, and 4.2% asked for help from nearby passengers. Only 0.5% have taken legal action.
The response and behavior of other passengers after an incident of sexual harassment played an important role, the survey found.
Around 36.9% of participants said other passengers try to ignore such incidents, and 2% of young women and adolescents said some passengers of public transport even supported the harasser.
Harassment on public transport is also affecting the mental health of women. According to the data collected, 21.2% of adolescents and young women were subsequently traumatised due to sexual harassment while using public transport.
Moreover, 29.4% said public transport has become a cause of fear for them. In addition, 16.4% now suffer from an inferiority complex, and 13.8% suffer from depression.
"Harassment and violence against women are increasing day by day whether at home, on the road, or on public transport," said Aachol Foundation's founder President, Md Tansen Rose.
"Such incidents can be greatly reduced if every public transport is monitored by CCTV, and drivers, helpers are appointed through government management, and there are speedy trials of any untoward incidents," he added.
Md Ismail Hossain, professor of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, said, "The picture that emerges from this survey of the Aachol Foundation clearly shows that in order to tackle this social problem completely, we have to fix our morals and build a movement."
Asked about the survey, Samira Akhter, general secretary of the Aachol Foundation, said, "Insecurity is a big issue for a woman when it comes to public transport. A woman can suffer from severe mental illness as a result of such harassment."