No to women-only carriages on our railways

Labour Party

While I am fairly certain that Tory Transport Minister Claire Perry’s heart is somewhere in the right place, I fear she is very misguided in her views on how to reduce the number of sexual assaults on women using public transport.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday, Ms Perry let it be known that she is considering measures similar to the women-only carriages introduced on the San Paolo metro two months ago, according to City Metric.

No-one is disputing that action is urgently needed. The number of sex crime incidents against women on the London underground and DLR increased by 31 per cent during the past year. Sexual offences on UK mainline railways rose by 21 per cent between March 2013 and March this year.

The situation is indeed very serious. However, the answer must be to put the onus on the offenders, the men who carry out the attacks, not the victims, the women who are attacked.

Segregating women in their own carriages is quite simply the worst of all worlds. It makes women the ones who are “punished” not their attackers.

Instead of demonising all women who travel on public transport, Claire Perry, who is apparently currently meeting with police transport officers to discuss reducing sexual assaults on women using the rail and underground networks, should be seeking to take action against those who commit the offences.

Two immediate ways of dealing with sexual assaults are:

Improve law enforcement on the underground, mainline rail and other rail systems

Take immediate measures to improve the abysmally low conviction rates for all types of sexual offences

There are, I am sure, other measures which would target the offenders not the victims and be successful in reducing sex crimes.

Segregated carriages currently operate in India, Russia, Indonesia and Japan. There is little doubt they are effective and incidents of sexual assaults on women using public transport have gone down in all these countries. It may be effective but it it’s neither fair nor just.