We refer to the New Straits Times article dated February 16th, titled “Woman violently assaulted, robbed in MRT Cheras Station Lift.”
This incident is a damning indictment into how our public transport network, and indeed, our cities cater so poorly for women’s safety. It is important to note that this is not the first time incidents violating women’s rights to safety has happened on our public transport network – there were three high-profile sexual harassment cases in the last year alone. But this goes further than just our public transportation – our cities are built in a way that is hostile and unsafe for pedestrians from our diverse backgrounds.
Marginalised groups like women, seniors, LGBTIQ+ people, the poor and migrants are still grappled by fear every time they work, live and play in our cities. In this station (and in many parts of the city) basic amenities needed for pedestrians, such as lighting, passive and active surveillance both from police and staff patrols, as well as better street design which allows more ‘eyes on the street’ were all lacking. Lack of clear lines of sight from poor land use regulation and street design means that perpetrators of crime have many opportunities to hide in preparation to attack as well.
We believe that in any city, marginalised groups should not have to sacrifice their freedom to move around due to fear of incidents like this. They all have a right to be safe in our cities, and it is time for policymakers to respond with holistic, comprehensive measures to make our cities safer for everyone. We can’t afford any more delays in taking action to protect our marginalised communities – time’s up, and the time to act is now.
We call on Prasarana, the transport operator managing the MRT Cheras station at the time of the incident, DBKL, as well as the police to make our stations and public transport safer through regular police patrols, better lit stations and streets. We also call on Prasarana to collaborate with other stakeholders in developing and executing a comprehensive, transparent and responsive plan to deal with the increase of sexual assault and harassment cases on public transport, while also removing stigma from the process of dealing with these cases across multiple agencies. In addition, a focus on designing crimes out of our public spaces and creating clear lines of sight is needed to create inviting, safe public spaces which are easy to monitor and intervene in if an incident happens. This is a tried and tested method of easing crime rates and the perception of crime as demonstrated in the cities of Perth and Sydney.
We also call on our friends in the NGO and collectives around Malaysia to keep raising this issue in public, so that cases like this do not fade away from lack of attention. It is time that we bring our voices together to support the survivors of harassment and assault, as well as to compel the government to listen to the voices of the people calling for an end to violent incidences against women and marginalised communities. Let’s show with our voices and our feet that we stand with women, survivors of assault and harassment and marginalised communities.