POLITICS

Authors Of Jeremy Corbyn's Women-Only Train Carriages Proposal Say Better Safety Is Needed 'Right Now'

26/08/2015 22:57 BST | Updated 27/08/2015 10:59 BST
Matt Cardy via Getty Images
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25: Labour Leadership Candidate Jeremy Corbyn applauds as he speaks at a rally for supporters at the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl on August 25, 2015 in Southampton, England. Jeremy Corbyn remains the bookiesÕ favourite to win the Labour leadership contest which will be announced on September 12 after the ballots close on September 10 (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The women behind Jeremy Corbyn's proposal to introduce female-only train carriages at night say women’s safety must be improved "right now" against a rise in harassment on public transport.

Blogging for The Huffington Post UK, Anneliese Midgley and Shelly Asquith write while ultimately "changing men's behaviour" is required, harassment and assault on public transport rose by over 20% in a year.

Acknowledging some women want a "safer space" while others believe the idea is "counterproductive ... hence, a consultation", they signal the need for a short-term response: "We need to address women’s safety right now, while also making strong moves to to tackle the culture of our society in the long term."

The Labour leadership frontrunner has been criticised by all three of his rivals for proposing "segregation", while another Labour MP said the move would amount to “apartheid”.

Following an outcry, Corbyn's team made clear the proposed policy, among a series of ideas to tackle harassment, was to be consulted on and informed by discussions.

Midgley, head of political strategy at the Unite union, and Asquith, vice-president (welfare) at the National Union of Students, both part of the left-winger's campaign team, detail how women "face harassment and occasionally assault going about our daily lives", and how this year alone they have variously been been followed home, witnessed a man masturbating while on an empty tube carriage and felt compelled to abort journeys on public transport.

They says the proposals, which also include a police hotline staffed by women and steps to tackle drive-by harassment, are underpinned by the need to "tackle harassment by changing men's behaviour", and not "blaming or penalising women".

Critics of the notion of women-only train carriages, which exist in other countries including Japan, Mexico, and Brazil, question why women's behaviour has to change when men's actions are to blame, suggesting it admits defeat.

Midgley and Asquith go on that "passionate statements condemning sexism without any concrete suggestions for change are not doing the trick".

Of women-only carriages, they write: "One of the proposals is a consultation on public transport, including consulting on a pilot of a women's only carriage late at night in harassment hotspots.

"This has grabbed the headlines. We proposed this because, while working on putting together these ideas, some women felt that they would like a safer space if they are being harassed on public transport. Others thought it would be counterproductive and needed a different solution. Hence, a consultation.

"One thing we must all agree on is that we cannot continue to let harassment and assault on public transport continue to rise. It has risen by over 20% in a year. We need to address women’s safety right now, while also making strong moves to to tackle the culture of our society in the long term.

"We wanted to get ideas out there on how to tackle street harassment. Let’s engage in a serious discussion to do this together."

Corbyn wrote when launching the policy: “Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women only carriages.

“My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to on the mode of transport itself.

“However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome - and also if piloting this at times and modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.”