Women's safety on public transportation in Mexico City

Let's Travel Safely and Securely is an excellent plan that has to be followed up on. Examine the situation further and learn all you can.

Women's safety on public transportation in Mexico City
Increased awareness and training would improve women's safety on public transportation. Photo by Narciso Arellano / Unsplash

Although there are multiple governmental strategies to guarantee women's safety, they are usually poorly executed, so it is necessary to give real follow-up to the complaints, offer gender training to the police, as well as increase the penalties for aggressors, considered Ana Guadalupe García Vega, master in Social Work at UNAM.

During her talk "Can women travel safely? Women and mobility in the CDMX", as part of the cycle "Wednesdays for Equality", recently organized by the Commission for Gender Equality (CIGU) of the National University, the graduate of the National School of Social Work (ENTS) reflected on the proposals implemented given the reality that millions of women live, when using the public transportation network in the capital of the Mexican Republic.

García Vega considered it important to listen to them and also to their demands; "it is a fundamental axis that the government learned the hard way, because after they went out to the streets asking for no more violence, no more harassment, actions began to be taken". This was part of our demands when we asked for safe footpaths, panic buttons, and gender training for police elements -which is also a challenge- to get home safely.

As part of her master's thesis, the researcher reviewed the "Viajemos Seguras" program, which was established in 2008 and was a milestone in the then Federal District as it was an inter-institutional plan, in which INMUJERES, the Ministry of Public Safety, even Locatel and other institutions participated. As of 2019, this program receives the name "Let's travel safe and protected".

The objective of the plan is to carry out organized actions, based on a gender approach, between public transportation agencies, agencies responsible for public safety, and law enforcement, to ensure that they travel safer and free from violence.

From the beginning, it includes public transportation: Metro, Metrobus, Light Rail, and Trolleybus, which are the arteries of the city, because they use multiple means and make numerous stops, which means that while men go from home to work and back, women go from home to their workplace, for the errand, pick up the children, to the dry cleaners, to pay services, to the bank, to the house, and so on. In other words, an extensive mobilization due to the roles they perform.

More training for women

The work arose from the need to rescue the importance of women, their right to public space and to move free of violence, and not only to resort to traditional stereotypes; that is, not to mention that she could be your sister, mother, or friend, but the nurse who will save a life or the next lawyer, the scientist in search of a cure. The objective is to reinforce that they have earned the right to the city, that they live and travel in it, and deserve to do so free of aggression.

For example, in 2019 the Metro transported 5.5 million users daily; however, it was designed for 2.5 million, which causes a series of consequences and problems that are noticeable, such as damage or overcrowding.

In its study, the research covered 2019 to 2020, before the pandemic. They reviewed the actions carried out by the government (now including safe cabs) and the five attention modules located in Balderas, Mixcoac, Taxqueña, Pantitlán, and Pino Suárez, with opening hours from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. Their capacity is 2.5 percent of the total number of stations of this means of transportation.

The activities of the program include the preventive aspect, which is the separation of cars and exclusive units; there is a virtual page and the application "Vive Segura CDMX", in which "cartographies of fear" are elaborated, that is, where something bad happens there it is registered, but there is no sanction, it is only to identify which are the most dangerous stations. The most complaints are made on line 3, one of the most crowded lines.

Regarding the attention modules, the specialist in Gender, Security, and Safe Cities pointed out: although free psychological and legal advice is provided, there are only five; in case of suffering any mishap in the Metro, they are referred to these sites, and everything is concentrated there.

"This is important because it is part of the drop in complaints. If I transfer on the Atenea bus and there I suffer a mishap, the protocol is that I approach a policeman, I comment on it, I am questioned if it was really like that -which was one of the results of the thesis- questioning the victim with: 'but miss, look how you are dressed'. It was found that the personnel had no training in terms of gender or action," said the expert, who is a member of the Science, Technology and Gender Network.

The victim must go to the care module together with the aggressor; in other words, after the trauma, she must still be with him. In these places, the attention is based on civic law, which establishes that the type of infractions committed inside the Metro is punishable by paying from 84 to 800 pesos, a figure that has not changed since the beginning of the program; or six to 12 hours of arrest, or six to 12 hours of community work.

This is fundamental because "it is paid by breaking the social order, but being a hetero-patriarchal social order, the consequence is that harassment does not break the social order, it perpetuates it and, therefore, the sanction is minimal in comparison to the damage that can be done to us as women, because most of them, upon perceiving these things, end up taking other routes, paying for private transportation, which is another extremely important issue for the safety of women, buying things to defend themselves; In other words, security ceased to be a right to become a commodity and we women are the ones who are investing the most in self-defense courses," for example.

The program is well thought out, because the participating instances, the legal part, and public transportation were considered, but it was not followed up and its actions are limiting. Another example is that during the government of Miguel Ángel Mancera they were given whistles to defend themselves, but the police did not know what to do in case they heard them; it was a good idea, but poorly executed. It is necessary to be more consistent with the follow-up of aggressors, especially with repeat offenders, as well as to increase sanctions.

In the case of cabs, recalled the moderator of the talk, Vianey Mejía, from CIGU, women are more vulnerable and although some applications in Mexico City have a module called "My cab", when accessing it the user is asked to register again with a special password; in other words, there are a series of obstacles that prevent it from being used, and although the intention was good, the execution and follow-up were not.