Two months after Sao Paolo’s city authorities approved a bill enforcing women-only carriages on the city’s metro network, a transport minister has said that similar measures may be needed in the UK.
Claire Perry, speaking at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham yesterday, said she is “absolutely determined” to cut the number sexual offences on public transport, and that women-only carriages could be a way to prevent “groping and low-level violence”.
The idea was raised after the number of sexual offences on UK mainline railways rose by 21 per cent in a single year. This chart shows the number of incidents recorded by the British Transport Police in 2012/13 and 2013/14:
As you can see, the vast majority of that increase was in sexual crimes against women.
On the London underground and DLR, it’s a similar story: reported sex crime incidents against women increased by 31 per cent in the past year.
Perry, who is rail minister at the Department of Transport, said last night that she is currently meeting with transport police officers to discuss ways to bring down the numbers:
“Even a thousand is too many. I am absolutely determined that, on my watch, that will change. We have to have an expectation of safety on our public transport.”
Segregated carriages currently operate in India, Russia, Indonesia and Japan, where transport police have seen a drop in incidents since they were introduced. SheTaxi, a woman-only taxi company, also launched in New York this month.
In reaction to Perry’s speech, some have noted that segregated transport could put the onus on women, rather than society as a whole, to prevent sexual crime:
Perry said she’s also considered other “wacky ideas”, like banning repeat offenders from public transport permanently in a “three strikes” system. For all the practical barriers, that might be less wacky than removing women from mixed carriages for their own safety.