Women-only compartments are common on trains in India, but a plan to introduce them in seemingly safer Britain by Labour leadership election candidate Jeremy Corbyn has attracted a chorus of criticism from leading women in politics and other spheres.
Corbyn announced the plan on Tuesday in the context of rising incidents of assault and harassment in Britain’s public transport system. ‘Ladies only’ compartments were introduced in Britain in 1874, but abolished in 1977.
As the plan prompted inputs in the news media from India and other countries with such women-only carriages, rival candidate Yvette Cooper ridiculed it, saying: “Just got off tube. Majority of passengers are women. Why should we have to shut ourselves away to stay safe?”
As Corbyn’s supporters welcomed the plan, education secretary Nicky Morgan said: “Women should feel safe and be free from harassment on public transport.
(This idea) seems to say ‘let’s segregate people’ rather than tackling the issue. And so I don’t think this is the right way to go.”
Corbyn said: “Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment in public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages… It is simply unacceptable that many women and girls adapt their daily lives in order to avoid being harassed on the street, public transport and in other public places from the park to the supermarket. This could include taking longer routes to work, having self-imposed curfews, or avoiding certain means of transport.”