The concept of Indian-style women- only carriages on UK trains should be adopted to combat sexual offences against women which have nearly doubled recently, a Labour MP has said.
Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, believes it is “worth consulting” on the policy after such crimes nearly doubled in the past five years.
The concept, which is in force on trains in India, Japan, Brazil and Mexico, had been first raised for the UK to emulate by Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 but had been shot down as a move that would promote “segregation”.
“It [women-only carriages] would be worth consulting about. It was pooh-poohed (when Corbyn suggested it), but these statistics seem to indicate there is some merit in examining that,” said Williamson, who serves as the shadow fire minister.
“Complemented with having more guards on trains, it would be a way of combating these attacks, which have seen a very worrying increase in the past few years. I’m not saying it has to happen, but it may create a safe space. It would be a matter of personal choice whether someone wanted to make use of it,” he said.
Williamson was citing official figures issued by British Transport Police (BTP) showing that 1,448 sexual offences on trains had been reported in 2016-17, compared with 650 incidents in 2012-13.
So-called “ladies only” compartments were phased out on British railways in 1977 and the latest suggestion has again come under attack from within the Labour party itself.
Responding to the comments, Labour MP Jess Philips said it was “an absolutely terrible idea” that amounted to “giving up on trying to prosecute assaults”.
“Also men should be incredibly annoyed by suggestion they cant control themselves. Sexual violence isn’t about urges its about power. If you take your feminist cues from Saudi Arabia you’ve gone wrong,” she said.
Another Labour MP Stella Creasy said, “Doesn’t keep women safe to restrict their movements, it normalises attacks”.
Labour’s former transport minister Lord Adonis also described women-only train carriages as an “absolutely crazy idea” and “grossly insulting”.
“The idea that they would be herded into separate carriages when the point at issue is a very tiny number of men who don’t behave properly. And I doubt that many women would use them, so what you’d find is that the carriages would be empty,” he said.