Would You Want Women-Only Subway Cars To Stop Sexual Harassment?

sexual harassment photo

I had a particularly delightful experience this morning while bounding down the subway steps into the station. A young man, probably about 20, was sitting on the bottom steps next to the handrail in the middle. As I clip-clopped down the stairs past him, he purposefully tilted his head around, focusing on my bare legs, and peered up my short, summery dress. On the train platform, I turned around to glare at him and he stared vacantly back at me, as if to say “Yeah?”, which was super-creepy. I walked down the platform, where I saw a cop, and told him that a guy sitting on the steps had looked up my dress and perhaps the cop might want to keep an eye on him. When I tried to point out where this creeper had been sitting, I saw he’d left.

So, I read with interest this morning that Seoul, South Korea, is looking to reintroduce female-only subway cars in its transportation system in September to fight sexual harassment and sexual assault.In 1992, Seoul, South Korea, introduced women-only cars to its subway system. Only women were allowed in the front car and the back car of the trains from 7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. daily. But the women-only cars were quickly abandoned, in part because they are so controversial. They were re-introduced in 2007 and abandoned again.

In September, two women-only cars will be re-reintroduced on one subway line but only run at night after 11:30 p.m. A security guard will also ride on the women-only car to make sure men don’t break the rules. This is the city’s response to an 80 percent spike in reported gropings/sexual assaults on the subway from ’09 to ’10; so far this year through July, 600 victims have reported a sexual crime took place on the subway, which carry 6.4 million passengers daily. (By way of comparison, New York City had 5.1 million passengers daily in 2010.)

Despite what happened to me this morning — which, to be clear, was an annoyance of the typical-for-NYC variety, but obviously not anything I would consider a sexual assault — I’m not in favor of segregating men and women on subway cars. That’s a Band-aid solution to a societal problem that tells men it’s acceptable to take liberties with women’s and girl’s bodies. Men have to learn sexual harassment is inappropriate, scary and illegal; men and women of conscience have to act as security guards and help out a victim when he or she is being harassed. And men who do grope and sexually assault on the subway must be harshly punished.

However, many cities do have women-only transportation (buses and “pink” cabs in Mexico City, for one) and I would imagine there are some women in these cities for whom this is a relief. If cost was not a factor, would you want America to have women-only subway cars, buses and trains in our public transportation system? Or to you agree with me that it’s just a Band-aid fix that would ultimately be useless? Let us know in the comments.

[Los Angeles Times via Clutch Magazine]
[Los Angeles Times]

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