Indian transport unions launch sensitisation programmes in wake of brutal bus attack

ITF-affiliated unions in India have reacted quickly to launch sensitisation programmes for their members following the rape and torture of a 23 year-old woman on a private bus in Delhi.

The paramedical student died following the attack which is alleged to have involved six men, one of them the driver of the vehicle.

The death of ‘Nirbhaya’ has caused outrage across India with transport unions joining activists, students and citizens to condemn the attack, make calls for swift justice against the perpetrators and for stricter laws governing crimes against women.

The All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) and the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) have gone a step further and enrolled union members in sensitisation programmes, a move backed by ITF women’s coordinator Alison McGarry. She said: “Both AIRF and NFIR have reacted to this attack by saying ‘What can we do to make sure devastating incidents like this don’t happen?’. They have already begun sensitisation programmes within their membership. They are committed to ensuring that attitudes towards women amongst public transport workers are such that co-workers respect one another and passengers are safe”.

Chair of the ITF women’s committee and assistant general secretary of Unite the Union Diana Holland said: “This brutal case has brought into focus a raft of issues, including violence on public transport, the safety of women and the reaction of the police and the judiciary to crimes against women. We are committed to ensuring transport trade unions play their part in addressing these issues, and that we all learn the lessons across the world.” Referring to a report produced by the ITF Asia Pacific office based in Delhi she continued: “This report shows that public transport is an issue that needs revisiting by the Indian government. We are aware that one of the men involved in this case is alleged to be the driver of the private bus where the incident took place. It is vital that public transport workers are a permanent workforce that has been trained and sensitised to respect men and women passengers. This is far preferable to contract, casual or precarious workers with no stake, no training, and no respect from the companies they work for.”

(View the full report from the ITF regional Asia Pacific office here)

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