Women-only train carriages
There has been some debate in the media this week about introducing women-only carriages on trains. Leaving aside the inexcusably bad reporting which frequently attributed the idea to Jeremy Corbyn rather than crediting him for responding to an idea he was presented with, this is a terrible idea. Why? Well, a few ideas that spring immediately to mind are as follows:
- The idea promotes the notion that men are prey to their uncontrollable desires and the best way to tackle this is to remove temptation from their path. This is nonsense on many levels – firstly it implicates all men as potential perpetrators of sexual violence, which is insulting to men. Second, it demonstrates ignorance of sexual violence – rape is a crime about power and violence not about lust and desire. Third it suggests that the victims are somehow the problem and that by removing them from the situation the problem is solved.
William Strang, The Temptation, 1899
- If women-only carriages were introduced, it would only be a matter of time before a woman choosing to travel in a mixed carriage was blamed for her own assault. Women are already blamed if they are assaulted and have been drinking, are dressed provocatively, have had previous sexual partners and so on.
- Women are not the only victims of violence. Are we going to have carriages for different races, ages, sexual orientations? Sometimes women perpetrate violence.
- Logistically how does this work? If we are going to have women in a women-only carriage this would need policing. Someone needs to make sure that only women get on and that the women who choose this carriage are safe. Personally I imagine it would make me feel like a sitting target especially if there were not many of us travelling because it was early in the morning, late at night or a more remote destination for example. Not to mention being convenient as a terrorist target.
- Introducing measures like this would have a sticking plaster effect – create complacency that something was being done to tackle sexual violence without looking at the causes of the problem and more fundamental solutions. If we look at representations of women in the media, numbers of women MPs, numbers of women CEOs, numbers of women attacked by men, they all point to a similar story – a culture in which men and women are not equally respected and valued.
We need to start creating a zero tolerance environment and one which promotes respect for ALL its citizens rather than creating solutions which put the onus on the victim and not the perpetrator to change their behaviour.