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Women-only transit: Safe spaces or segregation?

By James Li Nov. 9, 2023

Women across the world have experienced discrimination and harassment when utilizing public transportation. In Britain, over 90% of women have said that they have felt uncomfortable while riding public transportation. In South and Central Asian countries, over 50% of women have said the same, per TransportXtra, a transportation news source. Such statistics, along with the countless other complaints from women across the world, have led to the implementation of public transportation exclusively for women in a multitude of cities across the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Lahore, Jakarta, Dubai and Tokyo.

Catherine Nguyen Art

Previously, when attempting to solve the problem of women feeling unsafe when utilizing public transportation, architects aimed to remedy the problem by creating “safer” environments via better lighting and cameras. However, experts found that these had little to no effect in making women safer, nor did most women feel any safer. Thus, they introduced the solution of separate transportation for women.

In regards to public transportation, men utilize it more to get to work whereas women use it more for domestic chores, including dropping their kids off at school or buying groceries, per a study conducted by the Los Angeles Metro. Around 50% of men’s public transportation trips are work related, causing them to take more linear paths. On the other hand, women make shorter trips with frequent, sporadic stops due to irregular working hours and a greater variety of errands. Furthermore, women are the primary users of public transportation, as studies have found that women are more likely to ride public transportation to work compared to men, who prefer to drive.

“I would utilize women-only transportation if it was really late at night and there are not a lot of people around. In these cases, if I am in an unsafe area I would feel more comfortable being surrounded by women in transportation than men,” Junior Vidheya Iyer said.

Despite these statistics, most public transportation does not have accommodations for women. Strollers and carry-ons prove to be cumbersome when brought onto trains; going to multiple destinations in one trip is expensive as there are rarely linear paths when embarking on trips, forcing many women to pay multiple fares throughout the day. Bus and train stations are also poorly lit at night, which adds to women’s insecurity about their safety when traveling.

Some individuals question the effectiveness of women-only public transportation. In Japan, where women-only train cars were implemented, cases of disruptive behavior towards women dropped by about three percent per year. Still, a majority of Japanese women appeared to be ambivalent at best about the prospect of gendered train cars. Only 3.8% of Japanese women surveyed said that they utilized these specialized cars “all of the time.” When South Korea attempted to implement women-only carriages, they ultimately discontinued them due to lack of use, as did Jakarta and Mexico City upon facing similar issues.

Moreover, many dissidents of these systems have cited how the creation of separate transportation systems for women does not solve the root problems at hand. Rather than addressing the poorbehavior of individuals who occupy public spaces, officials instead further discrimination by segregating women, thus deepening the gender divide instead of allowing women to move towards equality.

“While partitioning transportation by gender is a good temporary solution, it fails to address the deeper issue of ingrained misogyny in historically patriarchal or less progressive, more ‘traditional’ cultures,” Senior Amil Gokhale said.

As the issues faced by women utilizing public transportation continue to gain public attention, various solutions—such as gender-separated transportation—will continue to be implemented across the world. However, if the initial problem of women being tormented and harassed is never addressed, this problem is unlikely to reach a permanent solution.


About the Contributors

James Li

staff writer

James Li is a senior at Leland High School and is a staff writer for The Charger Account. When not working, he enjoys bowling, running and playing video games.

Catherine Nguyen


Both a writer and an artist for The Charger Account, Catherine Nguyen is a freshman who likes drawing, baking, and taekwondo!

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