Female tourists soon may find traveling around Beijing a little bit safer, although it might be a bit inconvenient for their traveling partners who happen to be men.
The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a legislative advisory committee, is considering proposing operating “women-only” cars in the subway during rush hour, so that “women will be better respected and protected,” according to Xinhua, China’s state-run news service
That proposal would continue a trend in Beijing to accommodate women, following the implementation of women-only parking spaces, which are painted pink and are wider than normal spaces by about 11 inches. The women only spaces were installed to account for the alleged difficulties women have in attempting to park in the normal narrow parking spaces.
The women-only cars would represent an effort by the Chinese to protect women from unwelcome advances on the subway. A survey conducted last year by the China-based Canton Public Opinion Research Center showed 31 percent of 1,500 Chinese women surveyed reported a rise in sexual harassment, with much of it occurring on public transportation. With more than three billion commuters riding the Beijing subways each year, that’s a lot of groping.
Other countries in Asia have implemented women-only subway cars, most notably in Japan, where sexual harassment and groping in the subways is commonplace, and women passengers are confronted daily with openly men reading pornographic manga, or cartoons. Some of the trains in Japan are women-only around the clock; others are just operated during rush hour.
In Malaysia, pink-colored cars on the railway and women-only buses have been around since 2010, and women-only taxi services began a year later.
The idea appears to have public support. Roughly 64 percent of respondents to an online survey of more than 8,500 voters said they thought female-only subway cars were a good idea; 28 percent were against it and 8 percent said they didn’t care. The Chinese blogosphere has gone wild with arguments for and against the idea, but the prevailing sentiment was expressed by one user of Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, who said, “For gentlemen who are against the idea, please think of your girlfriend, your wife or your daughter.”