Women in China constantly worry about being sexually harassed while riding the train. The battle to establish protection came to light in 2015 when five female Chinese activists began handing out stickers that called attention to sexual harassment on the metro.
Despite some who refuse to see the problem, the Chinese government responded to these claims in a variety of ways. One solution was to introduce women-only subway cars in Beijing, which would run during rush hour. This solution would help prevent the unwanted contact often made in overcrowded subway cars.
“In the past, there would be workers trying to tell them and remind them repeatedly: ‘This is a women-only car,’” 28-year-old bank employee Lu Lili said. “But all these men still want to rush over. They really are uncivilized.”
The cars became official in June 2017. One car on line 1 was reserved specifically for women during rush hour from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on workdays, but men could ride the cars during non-peak hours. However, this can become an issue for families.
“Couples, friends and families may want to stay together, so in those cases, it is not suitable to force male passengers out of the carriages,” said an official with Guangzhou Metro.
Volunteers try their best to prevent sexual harassment, but it often becomes a difficult task. Anti-pervert flamethrowers even came on the market last year because women felt they did not have enough protection on the metro.
The Sina News portal conducted an online survey of over 8,500 voters, which revealed that 64 percent of respondents believe female-only cars are a good idea. In another survey of 2,023 people, 53.5 percent of female respondents said they experienced sexual harassment on the metro or knew someone who did.
The survey respondents supported the following: increased penalties for harassers, more safety checks and monitoring, more anti-harassment advertising, a more efficient reporting system, loud scolding of perpetrators when instances do occur, immediate reporting of the harassment, and photographs of the harassment.
“It is very uncommon that women come forward because they think it is a scandal, and they are embarrassed by this kind of situation,” said Lu Xiaoquan, a lawyer at a Beijing law firm. “This relates to China’s current circumstances and cultural environment – it takes time to develop the conditions conducive for women to come forward.”
Sexual harassment doesn’t only happen within the public transportation sector – it pervades the entire society, especially in the workplace. China now has its own #MeToo movement. “It is time for China’s lawmakers to talk about what sexual harassment really is,” said Sophia Huang Xueqin.
In order to stop sexual harassment on public transportation, China must develop stricter legislation that will hold offenders accountable. Without it, women will only continue to suffer from the same scenarios and will never truly feel they can walk the streets safely.
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