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It’s not a risk I’m willing to take

I don’t have a story or an experience about being sexually harassed in public transport. But I have a story of not having one.

It’s a story which starts with how I start my day. Every day when I leave home my mother tells me to be careful when you go in the bus. In Sinhala it translates to, Bus eke yanne parissamin. Then the day starts with that fear that something might happen if I go in a crowded bus or if I sit next to the “wrong guy.” Sometimes I wait for the next bus to come. Sometimes I wait two hours if the bus is too crowded. I usually don't take trains because of experiences I have heard from my friends.

Trains are way worse than buses. A lot of people intentionally touch you up. Even though it consumes my time and energy, going in a crowded bus and giving chance to someone to “accidentally” brush their hand on my thigh or my back... It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

The fear of harassment is the story I have. You always think about it when you go in the bus, and sometimes it affects our daily routines. I usually travel alone when I take the bus, and my mum gets so worried about me that I have to call her every time I arrive somewhere. Because of all the harassment stories we listen to on a daily basis, we are scared of being harassed or being accused of harassing. I am just one of many people who live with the fear of being harassed knowingly or unknowingly.

Photos © Eliza Hatch/Cheer Up Luv for UNFPA and Videos © Studio Zoo

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UNFPA, the lead UN agency responding to gender-based violence in emergencies, is working with the Government of Sri Lanka to tackle sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence, wherever they occur. UNFPA advocates for women and girls at the highest level and engages them in efforts to find lasting solutions. Yet more can be done to protect women and girls and hold their perpetrators to account. You can help. 

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