Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Assaulted & abused - Women facing hell from ‘loader men’ and bus conductors

Published:Sunday | January 29, 2017 | 1:00 AMRyon Jones
Not sure if he knows that he is assaulting this woman as he leads her to a waiting taxi.
A schoolgirl given a hug as she is led to a waiting taxi.
This woman had to almost run to avoid the attention of a loader men.
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It is like negotiating an obstacle course for many females who have to seek public transportation at bus parks and hubs across the island as the so-called 'loader men' and conductors push, pull, and sometimes, force them into vehicles.

With the complaints growing louder, a Sunday Gleaner team last week witnessed several females visibly upset, and some seemingly scared, as they were pulled, held, hugged, and verbally abused by brutish men - with schoolgirls and attractive young women their main prey.

The issue is one that the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODD) is aware of, and according to its president, Edgerton Newman, very concerned about.

"We are getting a lot of complaints at my office here about operators taking away bags from passengers and putting them in one bus while the passenger is in another bus; passengers being lifted up by loader men and put in a bus, and most of them are women," said Newman.

"We are not condemning anyone, but we are saying, this is 2017, and we have to change the way we operate, and we are going to take it to them in the parks, commencing on the 24th of February when we launch our road-safety programme," added Newman.

During a visit to a taxi hub in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, last week, our news team saw loader men and conductors harassing women in plain view of members of the police force and personnel from the Transport Authority who did not intervene.

VIDEO: Commuters face harassment in Half-Way Tree

In one incident, a woman had to run to escape a pack of aggressive taxi men while one loader man made it his duty to tell every other female, including schoolgirls, in the most graphic terms, what he would like to do to their bodies or have them do to his.

"The Transport Authority inspectors have a job to look out for this indiscipline and bring the conductors to book. The police need to get their act together, too. You cannot see a man doing something wrong and you rather to collect than to charge," said Newman.

He added: "It is zero tolerance with our own people as it relates to indiscipline. It should be on their records and used against them when they come to apply for or renew their badges until they take a course or attend a workshop organised by the Transport Authority."

For Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry, some of the boorish treatment faced by females as they seek to take public passenger vehicles amounts to assault.

"Women and girls have the right to walk about in a manner completely unmolested to make their own decision as to what bus they want to go on, and this thing of touching is completely wrong and is a violation of the female's rights. At a minimum, it is an assault on our criminal books," Harrison Henry told The Sunday Gleaner.

"The number of persons on our bus is something that we have to monitor because it is an opportunity for our young girls to be abused by people rubbing their bodies on them," added Harrison Henry.

Civil activist Carol Narcisse charged that the behaviour of the conductors and loader men seen at the bus stops reflects what is happening in the wider society, where women are seen as fair game for unwelcome touching, comments, and assault, all of a highly sexualised and violent nature.

"They (loader men and conductors) are representative of a societal acceptance or view of women and girls as essentially sexual objects and a kind of lesser human being subject to anything anybody wants to say or do to them," said Narcisse.

"And it is a culture, so nobody sees it as a problem except the girl or the woman. It is perfectly normal to say anything on the street to a woman in Jamaica. It is perfectly normal to touch them, rub up on them in the bus, and tell them all kinds of things you want to do to them," added Narcisse.

Widen proposed law on sexual harassment

Gender activist Judith Wedderburn is calling for speedy changes to the proposed law governing sexual harassment.

Wedderburn notes that the bill regarding sexual harassment, which was tabled in the House of Representatives in December, 2015, is limited to institutions.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com