Unaccompanied males train carriages

Imagine a group of delinquent pensioners spice up their retirement by hanging round your neighbourhood soaking people with big water pistols. Would it be acceptable to deal with the problem by setting aside a corner of the park for the exclusive use of young and middle aged people so they can relax and enjoy themselves without having to worry about elderly water bomb attackers?  That’s exactly the type of approach that MP Chris Williamson has been criticised for saying we should explore to help protect women from being sexually assaulted on trains by having “women only” carriages on trains; I want to take up his call for exploration because I think there’s a fairer way to segregate potential attackers from the women they would prey on: unaccompanied males train carriages.

Every train could have one or two “unaccompanied males” carriages that any men or groups of men who are not traveling with women have to use. That way women could travel in rest of the train knowing that the men they might encounter are suitably chaperoned. Problem solved.

I’m not saying this is a fair way of doing things, only that having compulsory unaccompanied male carriages would be fairer than having women only carriages. That’s because although there would be no overt rule saying women had to travel in their designated carriage the choice they would be faced with is “You can either travel in the safe women only carriage or you can risk attack in one of the others”; if the women only carriages were indeed significantly safer, then the additional danger elsewhere on the train would rob women of meaningful choice. At least with unaccompanied males carriages the men who are the potential attackers would be among the people whose choice is limited in the name of safe rail travel; it’s true that innocent men would also have to ride in a particular carriage to keep the train safe, but that’s no worse than innocent women being similarly restricted.

Going back to the delinquent pensioners, if you had to wear a raincoat even on the sunniest days and stick to one corner of the park to avoid water pistol attack then your enjoyment of your neighbourhood would be damaged, even if not a drop of water was ever directed at you. That’s where the women only carriages ideas really fails, sexual assault of women on trains doesn’t only harm the women who are attacked, it harms every woman whose freedom is restricted by fear.  Women only carriages would do nothing to limit the scale of the restrictions faced by women, the most they could achieve is to redistribute the inconvenience of the restrictions.

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