LONDON — It’s an idea being seriously debated here after Jeremy Corbyn, the front-runner in the Labor Party leadership race, said he’d consider the idea of women-only train cars late at night as one of a number of proposals to help reduce sexual harassment against women and girls.
“Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women only carriages," Corbyn said on his Web site. "My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to the mode of transport itself.”
He added that he would consult with women’s groups to see whether the proposal would be welcome.
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) August 26, 2015
But anti-sexism groups have railed against the idea, saying it’s not the right solution to the problems of sexual harassment and safety on public transport.
The Everyday Sexism Project, an online initiative that collects stories of daily harassment, said it was a backwards step that suggested that harassment is an inevitable fact of life.
Women only carriages suggest harassment/sexual violence is innate & inevitable so women’s responsibility to avoid.
— EverydaySexism (@EverydaySexism) August 26, 2015
Love or loathe the idea, it has gotten people talking, with #womenonlycarriages trending on Twitter in the U.K. on Wednesday morning. Some said that women-only cars would make women feel safer, while others called the concept patronizing and compared it to the Taliban.
I don't understand all this negativity towards women only train carriages. If it would make people feel a little safer I'm all for it
— ☯ Em ☯ (@3milyyyy) August 26, 2015
It might not be the right solution, but I'm just glad a politician is taking harassment seriously #womenonlycarriages
— Doctor Quinzel ♡♡ (@chewbeccaa_) August 26, 2015
— fleetstreetfox (@fleetstreetfox) August 26, 2015
Not only are #WomenOnlyCarriages draconian nonsense, they also open up a can of worms for transpeople too. At what point do they qualify?
— Radagast The Brown (@ZombieNeith) August 26, 2015
Corbyn’s Labor Party rivals — Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall — have generally shied away from attacking Corbyn, the favorite to win the party leadership race Sept. 12. But on this issue, all three quickly condemned the proposals.
“In this day and age, we shouldn't be even considering the idea of segregated train travel. As a dad of two young girls, I want to see a proper society-wide strategy on tackling violence against women,” Burnham said in a statement.
“Why should we have to shut ourselves away to stay safe?” Cooper tweeted.
— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) August 26, 2015
Kendall said that “segregation” was an “admission of defeat, no sustainable solution.”
Everyone should be able to travel without fear of physical or verbal attack. But #segregation admission of defeat, not sustainable solution.
— Liz Kendall (@LizforLeader) August 26, 2015
British Transport Police recently released figures showing they recorded 1,399 sexual offenses on public transport in 2014-2015, up 25 percent over the previous year. The police said that the increase was primarily a result of a campaign that has prompted greater reporting of incidents.
Women-only train cars are in operation in Japan, India and other countries, and it’s not the first time the idea has been floated in the U.K.
Last fall, Conservative transport minister Claire Perry said she would consider the idea. "They have introduced women-only seating in Japan because there is a particular problem with groping and low-level violence. It is a very interesting question, and I will look at all ideas," Perry said.