Governments in Bangladesh and Nigeria have given away millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks and treaties that could have been spent on hundreds of extra buses to help keep women safer in their cities, according to new research from ActionAid. The report, Freedom to Move, shows how governments are failing to protect women from violence and harassment when making journeys around the city by failing to invest in public transport systems.
As the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, ActionAid spoke to women in São Paulo (Brazil), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Abuja (Nigeria) who described how they are exposed to the threat of gender violence as they try to go about their daily life, due to inadequate buses and stops, poor street lighting, few female transport staff, few if any public toilets and inadequate policing.
For women and girls worldwide, the freedom to move safely around cities is greatly restricted; by planning and design of transport that is blind to women’s needs, and by a negative culture that tolerates violence towards women. Women and girls living in poverty in growing economies are the most likely to be exposed to violence whilst on the streets.
Wangari Kinoti, ActionAid International’s Women’s Rights Policy Manager, said:
“Women and girls either experience or are faced with the constant threat of sexual and gender-based violence when making journeys in their city. But there is enough money available to help stop this. In Bangladesh around 85 million dollars are lost every year from just one corporate tax break for companies from richer countries - that’s enough to buy a thousand new buses.
“Women need to have the right to move around their city without fear of violence. We welcome Government's commitments to gender equality, but we need to see this translated into investment in public services that account for everybody’s needs. More tax, well spent, can help make this happen.”
Aggressive reduction of corporate tax bills undermines the efforts of governments to secure resources to cover the costs of transport services that work for women and girls. ActionAid believes that governments must regulate, subsidise or provide public transport; ensure laws and public campaigns to eliminate discrimination and violence against women; and ensure that the additional revenue from closing tax loopholes prioritises women’s unique needs and services that uphold and protect women’s rights.
Governments should ensure that women participate equally and meaningfully in all processes around designing, legislating and budgeting for city planning and public transport.