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General Overview

EICS Framework


Region of Reference

  • AfricaAfrica
  • AsiaAsia
  • AustraliaAustralia
  • EuropeEurope
  • North-AmericaNorth-America
  • South-AmericaSouth-America
  • WorldWorld


Sexual harassment refers to unsolicited comments, gestures, catcalling, or speech that people (most often women I don’t think that it is mainly women as most street harassment is for money or buying something) receive while moving about in public spaces, for example, during their commute, on the way to work, using public transport. This unwanted attention is frequently perpetrated by strangers, and often takes place in broad daylight and in the presence of other people.

Women frequently do not report sexually motivated street harassment for a number of reasons including because they think the behaviour is too minor to warrant attention or because it is culturally normalised. Women may also not report because they fear danger from the offender if they respond or take action, because they don’t believe that the authorities will do anything if they do report, or because they are simply too scared to do anything in response (see the results of the EMPOWER survey and focus groups). All of these responses create the impression of impunity for offenders, isolation, and increased fear for victims, especially as harassment is often not clearly defined in criminal law.

Street harassment forms part of the continuum of (sexual) violence against women, despite the seemingly innocuous content of the speech that makes up the harassing behaviour. Women are placed in a vulnerable position by the attention given to them, and these encounters often carry the real or perceived fear and threat of escalation to physical violence.

Sexual harassment limits women’s freedom of movement and ability to be in public and it also limits the possibility of women working in transport. It has been recognised as a human rights violation by the United Nations. The UN has called on states to “increase measures to protect women and girls from violence and harassment, including sexual harassment and bullying, in both public and private spaces, to address security and safety, through awareness-raising, involvement of local communities, crime prevention laws, and policies.”[5]

Harassment is enabled and exacerbated by societal beliefs that normalise predatory behaviour, for example, catcalling, wolf-whistling, indecent gestures, or groping. These forms of behaviour undermine women’s dignity and underpin victim-blaming. Weak community norms or beliefs against sexual violence and traditional gender and social norms that value (often violent) masculinities and promote men’s unfettered sexual access to women often predict higher rates of harassment and sexual violence.

Most countries in Africa have laws against sexual offences although most of these laws focus on harassment in the workplace or domestic violence, rather than in public or on the street. South Africa is an exception.

Women employees also face assault and harassment and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 2019 has adopted a new Convention and Recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the workplace and it has also developed the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019, and Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019.

Although these are designed to protect workers and employees, irrespective of their contractual status, including persons in training, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants, it reminds ILO member States that they have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”.

Types of Impact

Area Impacted

  • To/from the stop/station/rank
  • Waiting for train/bus/paratransit
  • In the vehicle
  • At interchanges
The legal framework of a country applies to all areas.

Time of Day of Impact

  • Day-time travel
  • Night-time travel
  • Peak-time travel
  • Off peak-time travel
The legal framework of a country is applicable night and day and does not change, due to traffic volumes.

Mode Impacted

  • Bus
  • Train
  • Rideshare
  • 4 wheelers informal
  • 3 wheelers informal
  • 2 wheelers informal
  • Cycling
  • Walking
The legal framework of a country applies to all modes.

Demographic impacted

  • Girls
  • Boys
  • Adult Women
  • Men
  • Elderly Women
The legal framework of a country influences all inhabitants and visitors.

SWOT Analysis

  • Survivor-centred multi-disciplinary care.

  • Coordinated response.

  • The political will to improve (where necessary) and properly implement the law.

  • Understanding of the significant, long-term effects of sexual violence on survivors, their families, and communities, including the fear of victimisation on women’s mobility, movement, and livelihoods.

  • Police and courts – create the impression that sexual offences are not taken seriously, and that the needs of survivors are not prioritised.

  • Undermining the reporting of offences, and increases the fear of crime for victims.

Formal legal definitions of offences facilitate a common understanding of what constitutes an offence and how it should be dealt with. This enables appropriate response initiatives to be formed.

  • Siloed service provision that creates fragmented service provision.

  • Inadequate or absent training of first responders and reporting officers that addresses the content of the law.

  • Myths and stereotypes about rape.

  • Secondary victimisation of survivors.


Assuming that there is political will, both females and governing bodies will be satisfied with the development of harassment/street harassment legislation and the identification of enforcement and health protocols. Based on expert opinion and the literature, the level of confidence in these ratings is high.

  • Perception by (female) passengers
  • Perception by governing bodies
  • Level of confidence in these ratings


Implementation of this intervention takes some time initially, as the legal framework and response procedures are developed. The benefits occur slowly initially but will last.

Implementation timeframe

  • 0-1 year
  • 1-3 years
  • >3 years

Timeframe to realise benefits

  • 0-1 year
  • 1-3 years
  • >3 years

Scale of Implementation

This intervention affects all geographical scales.

Station or

Ease of Implementation

This intervention takes a moderate amount of effort to implement, as it requires skilled personnel, and it takes a fair amount of time and effort.

List of References



1. Chafai, H. (2021). Everyday gendered violence: women’s experiences of and discourses on street sexual harassment in Morocco. The Journal of North African Studies, 26(5), 1013-1032.



2. Ancheta, A. C. P. (2018). No place for harassment: Construing street harassment as gender-based sexual violence and providing remedies, therefore. Ateneo LJ, 63, 539.

3. https://www.seoulsolution. kr/en/content/fighting-violence-against-women-making-seoul-safer-city-women-project

4. Aloul, S ., R . Naffa, and M . Mansour . 2019 . “Gender in Public Transportation .” SADAQA . http://library .fes .de/pdf-files/bueros/am- man/15221 .pdf .

5. UN WOMEN 2021. “National Framework for Gender Sensitive Public Transport Launched .” UN Women Jordan .https://jordan.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/april/national-framework-for-gender-sensitive-public-transport-launched  

North America

North America

6. Arndt, S. (2018). Street harassment: The need for criminal remedies. Hastings Women's LJ, 29, 81.

7. Laniya, O. O. (2005). Street smut: gender, media, and the legal power dynamics of street harassment, or hey sexy and other verbal ejaculations. Colum. J. Gender & L., 14, 91.