Segregating Our Public Transport

29 / 04 / 2016

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Jessamy Gleeson, our wonderful Culture Club contributor, works in and researches social media, feminism, online activism, and gender studies. This month for Sheilas, Jessamy deconstructs why ‘women-only’ train carriages continues to be a contentious issue, and the ugly possibilities that can rear from what people may see as a ‘quick-fix.’ 

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The issue of “women-only” train carriages has reared its head again, and it’s as contentious as ever.  The Rail, Tram, and Bus Union National Secretary, Bob Nova, recently proposed a trial of “Safe Carriages” in NSW, complete with extra distress buttons, on-board CCTV, and regular checks by staff. But the debate about these carriages has got me bouncing my head back and forward like I’m at a Grand Slam tennis match.

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Australia isn’t the first country to consider implementing these carriages. Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and Brazil have all been running similar services for some time. Putting aside the ubiquitous pink signage (complete with flowers and sparkles) that these carriages seem to inspire, they’ve generally been a bit hit and miss. Some services have been given the scrap due to underuse, whilst others have proven so popular they’ve led to entire trains being reserved for women.

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But the suggestion of women having separate spaces to protect them has, somewhat unsurprisingly, been met with degrees of alarm and dismay. The question of whether women need to be segregated for their own safety is an argument that has gone back far beyond train carriages, but one we’re still yet to reach a firm decision on.

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According to survey results released by The Australia Institute last year, 87% of women have experience a form of harassment in public, whilst 83% of women have undertaken actions to ensure their personal safety in public spaces. In NSW, a media release from the RTBU pointed out that there has been “2859 criminal offences against women on public transport, including almost 19 sexual offences against women…[on public transport] every month” It’s clear there’s a problem here. But should the solution be, “let’s segregate women from the rest of the public”?

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swing trading strategies for stocks Putting aside the fact that women typically make up about 50% of ‘the public’, some women have welcomed the idea. It’s been pointed out that even when the intent of segregation is patriarchal in nature, it’s allowed women space to discuss and develop their unique discourse and spaces. Furthermore, these carriages draw attention to the fact that women do experience more harassment in public than men – and that despite the constant male tears, these carriages are giving women an alternative to just enduring the possibility or actuality of verbal and physical abuse.

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فوركس المملكة المتحدة But there’s also the issue of victim blaming to consider. Should we be putting the onus on women to move to separate carriages for their own safety? Or, if a woman is harassed or assaulted in a “mixed carriage”, will she then be blamed for not making use of the “women’s only” carriage – and thereby essentially “asking for it?” The responsibility for preventing harassment, abuse, or assault should always be on the perpetrator. After all, women can move to different train carriages, but this is just one space in a much larger area. And as soon as women step off that train carriage, they’re right back into ‘public space’, and need to again be on their guard.

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currency forex online trading The other issue – and one that hasn’t drawn as much attention – is the effects of gender segregation on people who are trans, gender queer and gender nonconforming. Gender segregated public bathrooms have already caused concern for their potential to both exclude and trigger internal gender conflicts for people who are trans, gender queer and gender nonconforming. By designing “women’s only” carriages, we run the risk of inflicting further stress by enforcing gender segregation in another public space.

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Viagra köpa apoteket Although women-only carriages might, as a friend of mine pointed out, stop us having to deal with manspreading, gender segregation alone isn’t going to fix the problem. If we want to effectively address wider issues of women’s harassment and abuse at the hands of men, we need to have a more complex discussion about men’s behaviour and their level of entitlement in public space. A set of train carriages can only go so far to fixing the problem – and although it’s great for women to be able to access a safe space, we can’t lose sight of the larger problem. Only when we have these discussions about men’s entitlement can we begin to focus on the real issue here – one in which men feel that they can harass women in public, and there are very little consequences for doing so.

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