In many countries — including Indonesia, India and Japan — man-free train rides are a real option for female passengers. But for the first time since the U.K. stopped offering ladies-only train cars in 1977, the practice is set to be re-introduced in Europe. Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn, a privately owned Germany railway corporation, announced earlier in March that it will soon offer women-only train cars on trains travelling between the eastern cities of Leipzig and Chemnitz.
A morning commute free of manspreaders and leering might seem like the stuff of our beautiful feminist fever dreams, but the company has faced significant condemnation for the decision, which many believe is linked to an uptick in right-wing anxieties about refugees, and the hundreds of sexual assaults which took place in Cologne last New Year’s Eve. Systemic societal ills certainly don’t right themselves overnight, but is segregation really the answer?
“In the long term, we need to work on facilitating integration and cannot deviate from our aim to reach a gender-inclusive society,” the regional representative for equality-related issues Konstanze Morgenroth told mephisto 97.6, a German radio station. “In such a society we don’t need special shelters for women.”
Perhaps Germany would do well to look to Jeremy Corbyn — leader of the British Labour Party — for a more holistic approach: he also suggested the women-only carriages not as a panacea, but a temporary measure to be rolled out in tandem with a 24-hour hotline for reporting harassment on transit.
“I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome,” he said. Maybe Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn should follow suit and ask a lady.