Uncovering gender-based violence and harassment in public transport: Lessons for spatial and transport justice

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - south america, place - urban, mode - bus, mode - subway/metro, policy - equity, planning - personal safety/crime


Gender-based violence, Sexual harassment, Transport justice, Spatial justice, Mobility, Chile


When suitably organized, public transport plays an important role in social inclusion and equity by providing crucial access to social, political, and economic opportunities. Notwithstanding, a growing body of evidence points to gender-based harassment and violence associated with public transport journeys as significant barriers to women's travel. This raises important issues regarding spatial and transport justice.

Using a survey in Santiago, Chile, this study explores gender-based violence and harassment experienced while accessing, egressing, and using public transport. We use zero-inflated and logistic regression models to explore individual, behavioral and spatial factors associated with gender violence, particularly sexual harassment, defined as unwanted touching, filming or photography, stalking or masturbation, and rape. We examine these factors differentiating by trip segment (access to and egress from the system versus in-vehicle experience) and public transport mode (bus and Metro).

Our results show that 17.5% experienced four or more harassment situations. Public masturbation or rape primarily occurred on the journey to and from public transport (8.6%) and on board a bus (7.4%). Our models indicate a spatial component of harassment which intersects with behavioral and individual factors as trip frequency, trip purpose, gender, age, and income, reducing public transit's ability to serve women, particularly those in low-income living in more peripheral areas. This article contributes to knowledge regarding how these factors interact in a major city in the Global South, which has been under-explored to date. Our findings join other studies challenging theories of spatial and transport justice, which to date pay little attention to violence in general and gender-based violence in particular. We make suggestions for reinforcing theory in order to develop stronger solutions to ensure transport systems improve equity rather than locking in current discrimination and exclusions.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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