Initiative: Making Seoul a Safer City for Women Project
Institution: Women Policy Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government
Problem: Economic growth in South Korea has not come without side effects, such as its increasingly flagrant social and economic inequality. In the zeal for prosperity, sex, too, has all too easily been commercialized. It has increased violence against women and children, as evidenced in the rises in the number of rape victims. The number of reported sexual assault cases has seen a 70 per cent annual increase, with at least 1,300 more cases reported each year, accounting to one rape victim every 23 minutes. Korean men, by tradition, have always been accorded a superior status, while women are taught to be passive and ashamed regarding matters of sex. In other words, men have typically been perceived as the subjects of sex, and women as objects, who, if raped, “invited” such shame upon themselves. Such erroneous ideas have left their mark on modern society. Only 1.1 percent of rape victims ever report the crime to police.
Solution: Until now, campaigning against sexual violence has mostly been under the exclusive purview of women’s organizations and groups. With the new policy, Seoul City manifested its resolve to approach sexual violence from a policymaking perspective, assisted by women’s organizations, citizens, and experts. Seoul City shifted the focus from reinforcing punishments, a short-sighted approach, to creating public awareness and initiating prevention campaigns. This is a broader approach that aims for greater long-term impact. The sexual violence prevention plan involved three phases: 1) development of educational programs and campaigns for all ages and groups to raise societal sensitivity to human rights issues; 2) creation of environmental, human, and transportation networks with a view to making the entire city safer for women; and 3) establishment of a one-stop system through which victims can report crimes and receive protection. Also, the city launched a complementary program focusing on establishing “human networks” for women’s safety called the “Safer Neighborhoods for Women Program”, which encourages people to take interest in possible domestic violence and abuse happening in their neighborhoods and make more concerted efforts to keep women and children safe.
Impact: In Seoul, over 1,000 citizens have volunteered to accompany women returning home at night, while another 2,000 or so have registered as volunteers for patrols in the Safer Neighborhoods for Women Program. There are currently 656 convenience stores designated as Women’s Safety Patrol Houses to assist women fleeing from danger, and 3,000 more volunteers who have been trained on keeping women safe while in these stores. Over 1,000 delivery men for popular franchise restaurants have also been trained to provide help when they spot instances of violence against women. Seoul provides sexual violence prevention classes for over 50,000 people of all ages and backgrounds each year. The reporting system has helped 4,561 women so far.