Gender-separated transit vehicles are not the answer

Apes illustration Web-Apes illustrationLately there has been talk regarding the possibility of women-only SkyTrain cars, in order to help with the constant sexual harassment and insecurity problems that women have to face on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, women-only cars in public transit are not uncommon in countries like Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Egypt, and others. I cannot help but wonder why this implementation is necessary in the first place.

Debate over whether or not the city should put segregated cars into effect is complicated to say the least. Even though this idea may help women like myself feel safe sometimes, the problem of sexual harassment goes much deeper than this ostensible solution.

The fact that there is even conversations around separate SkyTrain cars speaks volumes about how appalling the current state of personal safety really is. In order to fight the root of the problem, more money and time should be spent on preventative measures and education. Unless something is done to fight the embedded patriarchy of our society, segregated cars will only help superficially. If, however, more campaigns about sexual harassment are launched and children are educated about the importance of respect and choice from an early age, the future could definitely be a more positive one.

Unless something is done to fight the embedded patriarchy of our society, segregated cars will only help superficially.

TransLink stated that they plan to kick off a campaign to combat sexual assaults on transit as early as December, which shows, at least, that they are taking these issues seriously.  But if they opt to only implement women-only cars, several questions must be asked first.

For example, what will happen if a woman gets sexually assaulted while not on board a women-only car? Will the public be less empathetic towards her because she did not use one of the tools provided? It is of the utmost importance that society realizes that having such cars in place does not make any kind of sexual harassment outside of them acceptable.

Furthermore, we should ask ourselves how anyone will define what constitutes a “woman.” Will they be inclusive to self-identified women? Who will decide not only what constitutes a “woman,” but also who exactly will be allowed to use this service?

Even though the idea of women-only cars can be a positive step towards helping women feel safer — when taking the SkyTrain late at night or by themselves — it is crucial to focus the energy and attention on dealing with perpetrators and the troubling increase in violence and harassment against women.

We must see this idea only as a tool in the fight against insecurity and sexual harassment, not as a solution.

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