Corbyn’s Women-Only Train Carriages

Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals to end street harassment on public transport have faced a backlash from opponent Yvette Cooper following their announcement yesterday; being labelled as a measure to segregate men and women.

Corbyn plans to consult with women on whether or not they would welcome women-only train carriages since it is ‘unacceptable’ that women must adapt their commute to prevent against harassment. This is just one in a series of measures to end street harassment, others include setting up a women’s hotline dedicated to reporting harassment and assault, launching advertising campaigns and having tougher rules for licence holders with regards to their way of responding to and reporting assault.

Having spent more time and energy than I really feel is necessary dealing with street harassment I am glad Corbyn has decided to confront the problem by bringing it into the political realm. Many are loathe to acknowledge there really is a problem yet, as Corbyn has referenced, the Everyday Sexism Project and Stop Street Harassment have demonstrated just how prevalent the problem is by using the strength of a collective voice. I walk to a bus stop from work late at night in a run-down urban area, often receiving comments on my clothes or my body. These range from the simplest but most aggravating ‘smile, love’ to the more lyrical ‘nice lips, nice tits’ to the preposterous ‘hey there Nigella Lawson’.

I understand, I should probably leave my job for one which finishes before dark or wear more clothes or pay for a cab home or something.

My male peers never truly understand my frustration; understandably since when I am out with them it doesn’t happen. When I am out with my mum it doesn’t happen. I remember Laura Bates (the Everyday Sexism Project) once saying that when she was walking her dog it doesn’t happen. Targeting women when they are alone means there is very little reliable circumstantial evidence to report other than the testimony of the female victim. It is the most sinister of crimes; largely ignored and very little believed. So thank you Jeremy for thinking of us. Really, thank you.

But is state-involvement really the solution? The policy has been phrased as a measure to protect the victims from rather than to fight against the perpetrators. If the child is taken out of the classroom away from the bully the problem is not resolved; the school day will eventually end and the teacher’s authority will cease. It categorizes men as perpetrators and women as victims and is based off the logic that women may - no, women will – be targeted. Indeed Corbyn has somewhat contradicted himself. It is unacceptable that many women and girls adapt their daily lives in order to avoid being harassed on the street’ then why has the state accepted the danger and offered to implement a safer place for women?

The sad truth is, though; many women are afraid of appearing in public for exactly these reasons. The proposal, being up for consultation, may therefore be successful. Women may want to embrace single-sex carriages as a safe place to retreat from any harassment that may happen. Although the premise is an innate mistrust in the company of male commuters, this is not segregation because women are also offered the opportunity to sit in mixed carriages.

My first response to this idea was revulsion at any suggestion that women need more
protection because they are more vulnerable, but I think there are important things to consider; how this will be received and, if it is implemented, whether women will actually embrace it. Jeremy Corbyn is not Prime Minister yet and it is a long time until he could be and until his policies would take effect. Hopefully, by that time, these measures will no longer be needed.

Words by Laura Davis