The government and stakeholders in the public transport sector have been challenged to ensure the country’s public transport system is safe, efficient and without any form of harassment.
This follows the launch of a public transport code of conduct aimed at ensuring safety as well as rein in sexual and physical harassment in the sector.
Developed by the Political Leadership and Governance Programme (PLGP), the code seeks to set behavioural standards for public service vehicle saccos, their crew and partners in order to achieve a socially safe public transport system ensuring that the sector runs within the law.
This is in addition to guaranteeing an affordable, safe and reliable public transport service for passengers.
Speaking during the launch of the code of conduct, PLGP representative Diana Owuor said Kenyan public transport system is awash with cases of sexual harassment be it verbal or physical with women bearing the worst burden.
She explained that sexual harassment is an unwelcome advance which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated, where a reasonable person would anticipate that reaction in the circumstances.
This harassment manifests itself in form of unwelcome touching, sexually explicit physical contact, staring or leering, suggestive comments or jokes, sexually explicit pictures or posters, unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person or insults or taunts based on sex.
“Women suffer the most under these circumstances and touting has been an enabler of this behaviour in several bus stages and termini,” said Ms Owuor.
The code places certain obligations on players in the public transport sector including National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA), matatu owners, matatu sacco officials, crew (drivers and conductors), as well as passengers.
Drivers and conductors are required not to work under the influence of alcohol and other psychotropic substances or making threats or engaging in violent activities targeted to fellow crew members, employees, passengers, law enforcement officers, and staff of competitors.
Others are causing physical injury to another person or being in possession of ammunition, a firearm, weapon, or other item intended to be used as a weapon while on duty; aggressive or hostile behaviour that creates a reasonable fear of injury to another person or forcing passengers to board your vehicle by holding, dragging or verbally abusing them with a view of shaming them into submission.
For the matatu owners, saccos and management companies, they are expected to provide a safe and clean environment free of harassment, discrimination and substance abuse while vehicles are kept in a roadworthy condition and drivers, conductors and other crew are properly trained and licensed in accordance with NTSA regulations.
“Where the employees fail to comply with the provisions of the Code of Conduct, the Sacco may apply disciplinary measures, including dismissal. Each crew member shall receive a copy of this Code of Conduct and shall acknowledge himself/herself with this Code of Conduct by signing it,” said Ms Owuor.
NTSA is expected to ensure adherence to the code by matatu owners, crew members and passengers by monitoring compliance.
Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) Head of Traffic Boniface Otieno admitted that sexual harassment is rife in the public transport sector and affects both genders with touting by “kamageras” responsible for 90 percent of the vice.
“We promise to upscale enforcement and surveillance and ensure matatu saccos and crew address the matter. We have enough rules and regulations to rein in on the offense,” said Mr Otieno.
Samuel Musumba, NTSA Road Safety Programmes Manager, said they are committed to ensure PSVs commit to the code of conduct and they will enhance its enforcement.
“They will have to swear by the code while applying for licences and then we will go full blast in creating awareness as well as enforcing compliance,” Mr Musumba said.