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Is Segregation Really the Way to Stop Sexual Assaults?

28/08/2015 12:40 BST | Updated 27/08/2016 10:59 BST

Labour leader front runner, Jeremy Corbyn, has come up with a proposal to tackle sexual harassment and sexual assaults on our trains - by segregating women into female only carriages.

When this was announced yesterday it sparked immediate debate. Some heralded it as a good way to keep women safe, siting the fact some other countries already do this successfully. Others attacked the idea as downright daft and a backward step for women's rights.

So what is the truth? Well whatever your view, it is great that a high profile politician has raised the issue. After all it is a sad fact that cases of sexual assaults and street harassment are on the rise.

But is it right to suggest female only train carriages as way of solving the problem? It's true they would probably smell a lot sweeter than the mixed carriages sometimes do (sorry chaps) and if men really did obey the rules women may be safer, but, and this is a big but, do we really want to live in a society where segregation is considered the only way to keep women safe from harassment and sexual assault?

When I asked what people thought about Mr Corbyn's idea on my Twitter account yesterday one man said: "At first I thought it silly. But then you consider the amount of weirdos who use trains (and buses!) maybe it's needed."

I know he meant this in this best possible way but as I pondered this, my thought was that surely it's the 'weirdos' that need to be tackled, not women who need to shunted off into separate carriages.

Those in favour of segregation point out that countries such as India and Egypt use this system. That is little comfort when we realise cases of rape and sexual assault against women are much higher in those countries. Sadly there is also a widely held view that women out on their own are fair game for men to abuse. Many even go as far as to say women are to blame for the assaults. Anyone who watched the documentary India's Daughter following the gang rape of young woman on a bus in the early evening will have seen that deeply ingrained view being trotted out by too many men (and some women).

My concern is that by introducing segregated carriages here, we may be going down a similar route. We may start to think it is women who are the cause of the problem, rather than those committing the offences. As a woman I don't want to live in a society where all women as regarded as 'temptresses' and men are labelled as poor beings who can't control their sexual urges. That view is insulting to women and men. It also sends shivers down my spine.

During research for my book, A Teenage Girl's Guide To Being Fabulous, which aims to empower and help girls navigate their way through those tricky teen years, I found that girls are being sexualised more than ever before. Girls in school uniform walking down the street minding their own business are being cat-called in the street by adult men in cars. Demands by boys to get girls to sext (send them sexy or naked photos of themselves) are rife and the use of words like 'bitch' and 'hoe' are becoming normal vocabulary when referring to girls.

With this in mind it makes me think that segregation cannot be the answer. It is education that is needed and a zero tolerance on sexual harassment and assault.

For years we have seen victims of rape demolished in court by barristers who question the women victims about what they were wearing, and how much they'd drunk at the time of the attack. They insinuate the women were somehow to blame and their attacker was almost justified, or at the very least be excused, because of the woman's actions. I'm concerned that this dangerous thought process would lead to more injustice for victims of sexual crimes if we have segregated train carriages.

Why do I say this? Well, like me, there are bound to be many women who feel strongly against segregation. To make a point many may choose to travel in a mixed carriage. If they are sexually assaulted in that mixed carriage I dread to think how they might be treated if the case went to court. I can hear it now. Those same barristers who choose to highlight the fact that a woman was wearing so called 'provocative' clothing when raped as some sort of defence for the rapist would surely use a similar argument. They would merely point out that any female who chose to travel in a mixed carriage rather than seek the safety of a female only carriage chose to put herself in danger and not protect herself from harassment or assault.

Well done Mr Corbyn for making this issue headline news. However for me the debate is only just starting.

Check out my book, A Teenage Girl's Guide To Being Fabulous. Out now on Amazon.