Corbyn is right to listen to women’s transport fears

No one likes the idea of segregation, but practicality has to come first


Jeremy Corbyn has put forward the idea of having a consultation on introducing women-only train carriages to protect women from harassment. In a policy statement the leadership hopeful said:

“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.”

I understand the instinctive opposition to this idea. Gender segregation in any public sphere is not exactly progressive, plus it feeds into the idea that sexual harassment is the fault of the woman experiencing it. Hide the woman, and the men will be able to control themselves. Show the woman, and she must be prepared to deal with the consequences. This is offensive to men as well as women.

Essentially, Corbyn’s idea tackles the symptom of sexual harassment, not the cause. The problem would be better handled, say critics, by education and equality initiatives aimed at boys and men. However, we have a while to wait. If a country-wide programme of education about why men shouldn’t rape women began tomorrow, it would still be at least another generation until old ideas were stamped out.

And in the meantime, women are trying to get home every night scared. I am not even talking about the unwanted chat and intrusive questions. Personally I feel I can deal with these and I do not, like Guardian journalist Daisy Buchanan, ‘try be in bed by 11pm’ every night because these things make me fear for my safety. Some things I am willing to brush off because I am busy.

I am talking about men touching, pushing against, moving towards, following me, all of which have happened countless times to me and every woman I know. With the threat of these, perhaps many women would rather sit in a segregated carriage and accept the sadness that this is necessary. Practicality has to come first.

It is worth noting that there is a difference between enforced segregation, and giving women who do feel uncomfortable the option of moving to somewhere they feel safe. I am pretty sure – I hope – that Corbyn isn’t proposing splitting trains in half. This should be about choice. The comparisons with Saudi Arabia etc are clearly misrepresenting Corbyn’s point.

Anyway, the important thing is that this is a debate worth having. Since TfL stopped accepting cash on London buses, it has become more dangerous for women to be out late at night. When Oyster top up points are closed, and if you don’t have a contactless payment card, it is easy to find yourself completely stranded and having to pay for a taxi.

If night opening goes ahead on the London Underground it will represent a welcome second option for women, but we must have a conversation about the safety concerns this will bring with it. I am pleased that Jeremy Corbyn has got people discussing this.

This doesn’t have to be segregated carriages; it could also be increased security on trains. Corbyn is right to say that this decision can only be made fairly by listening to the voices of women who are affected by it. No one likes the idea of segregation, but it is more important that women feel safe without having to resort to curfews.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward.

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38 Responses to “Corbyn is right to listen to women’s transport fears”

  1. Roy

    Segregation of women is not the answer in a normal civilised western country.

  2. Monkish

    So, it turns out there’s more to Corbyn’s chumminess with Islamists than anti-semitism…

  3. jj

    This isn’t Saudi Arabia, where gender segregation is the norm, which has resulted in nothing but the mistreatment of women, and a culture of misogynist thinking. We are a civilised country. Segregation, for whatever reason isn’t going to solve anything whatsoever. Why is this website arguing that an apartheid system of transport is a solution to the issues of crime and a culture of rape?! On a practical basis it will not work, seems Left foot forward is walking with, well, two left feet once again, and will support anything Corbyn says, because he is, well… Corbyn.

  4. Ben1969

    It seems reasonable to ask women what kind of measures would make them feel safer when using public transport services – or when just doing whatever they want to do, wherever and whenever they choose. If people don’t like this particular idea, or if they have better ideas, then they are free to say so.

    It’s interesting to see that Jeremy Corbyn’s policy consultations are attracting so much interest and comment. You would almost think that he had already won the Labour leadership!

  5. Jane Leach

    Jeremy Corbyn is right to suggest this a lone woman can feel very vulnerable on public transport, Corbyn is at least taking the problem seriously.

  6. Fightin'Irish

    I’m not convinced that women want segregated carriages on trains. What we would appreciate is more train guards (remember them?). This is what happens when you put profit above the public good. Decent levels of staffing on trains, platforms (and, hey, even ticket offices) would go a long way to sorting the problem.

  7. Stephen Linstead

    Maybe not but if women raise it a civilised country would a) listen and b) discuss it respectfully.

  8. Stephen Linstead

    You haven’t read eyther the article or Cornyn’s very carefully have you. Nor the website as a whole – there have been quite frequent anti-Corbyn articles on here.

  9. jj

    No, I’ve read various articles on what Corbyn said. He is considering gender segregation on trains, I think whoever suggested this to him possibly wants to make a fool of Corbyn.

  10. Barry_Edwards

    The Tory Mayor of London is continuing with his plan to have tube trains running through the night on some lines. In New York they have done it for years as they have a four-track network which makes it much easier. I recall that when I was there some time ago areas of the platform were marked as the place to wait for a train late at night so passengers were visible to staff and encouraged to travel together to avoid lone passengers being valnerable to attack.

    Are there any plans to do anything like this here? Does the Mayor of London have any plans for the safety of late night passengers?

  11. cuthbia

    This discussion takes me back about fifty years. Prior to (I think, can’t remember exactly) the Seventies, Ladies Waiting Rooms were a common feature of railway stations. If memory serves, so were Ladies Only carriages at least on mainline trains. Why the practice was abandoned, I cannot say. I think that it went out with Third Class carriages, but I could be wrong.

    I must say that conjuring up a solution to the problem that could be applied to the London Underground requires a feat of imagination completely beyond me. The rush hour more or less takes care of itself but quiet periods during the day or especially late night travelling pose nigh on insurmountable problems.


    Do not be a tosser. A lone man on a train with drunken verbal abusive men and women can be an experience which happens on occasion from Glasgow to Paisley. Corbyn is a tosser and will keep the Tories in power for decades. He wil not care as he will keep his seat.


    If on arrival at the train station with my wife do we have to seperate to our respective carriages where I may be groped by a big matcho man. I would be devastated if this were to happen and moreso if my mrs was being groped by a lesbian predator in the next carriage.

  14. Jane Leach

    Jeremy Corbyn will not be a dictator and this is an idea put forward by him to open a discussion. By the way Mr Mc Gibbon using the word TOSSER twice in such a short comment suggests to me that you are grasping at straws.

  15. Copyright101

    Then how do we keep the UK as a normal civilised western country? You know what with all the mass-immigration from less civilised, non-western countries.

  16. StephenB

    It also suggests that it is not Corbyn that is the tosser

  17. StephenB

    Arguing that an option of a women only carriage tackles the symptom not the cause could be applied to pedestrian crossings ( a safe/er place) across a busy road. For many years mainline stations offered women only waiting rooms and they were much appreciated. The only argument against the idea re carriages is that it might not be practicable. Please give over on the ” segregation” bullshit.

  18. Jane Leach

    I don’t think for one second that you would be deprived of your wife this is an idea only meant for women who travel alone. If you are too scared of being groped by a big macho man you could do a Some like it Hot. This is an opening to a discussion on the safety of women he has set nothing in stone and its time that this problem was taken seriously.

  19. GhostofJimMorisson

    Can you imagine if Nigel Farage had made this suggestion? Something I suggested on the Guardian’s CIF, only to be censored twice. I think that proves my point.


    It suggests to me that those that vote for Corbyn are the tossers as they know Labour would lose a general election under his leadership. So not only are you tossers but a shower of leftie wankers that do not want to be in power but just shout at the Tories from the pavement as you traditionally do.


    And I thought women were equal. Why do they need additional protection. And what is to stop a male predator walking into an all woman carriage.


    Was he also chummy with fascist PIRA!


    If Farage had suggested this the loonie left would be on their usual totally outraged going mental trip.

  24. Dave Stewart

    No he isn’t here is what he said:

    is simply unacceptable that many women and girls adapt their daily
    lives in order to avoid being harassed on the street, public transport
    and in other public places from the park to the supermarket. This could
    include taking longer routes to work, having self-imposed curfews,
    avoiding certain means of transport

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

    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 [on] modes of transport where harassment is reported
    most frequently would be of interest”

    What he is saying is he will listen to the views of women on this issue and if it is something that they would welcome then he would consider it. He is also not suggesting making the segregation compulsary. Women would be free to use or not use the women-only carriage as they see fit. It is not segregation in the Saudi sense it is about creating a space which is safe for women because sadly far too many men can’t be trusted to behave like a decent human being. Of course it would be best if men didn’t sexually assault women but changing society is a very slow fitful process so in the short term this is a practical solution to a very real problem (sexual assault on women on public transport went up 25% last year) but no one is saying that attempting to stop men from behaving in such a way will be stopped. Both can happen at once, a safe space AND attempting to change attitudes.

    Below are sources for the quotes.…/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leaders…

  25. Dave Stewart

    wow that is an impressive straw man argument. You clearly have no interest in what was actually said or what has actually been suggested. You seem to want to warp the facts around a narrative you have already decided upon. You do realise this is an evidence based blog. Perhaps you would be happier somewhere else.

  26. Cole

    While I’m tempted, I wouldn’t use James’ language, but he’s right. The Tories are delighted at the prospect of Corbyn being Labour leader. Voting for him is just self indulgent and will lead to years of Conservative government.

  27. Cole

    It’s nearly as dotty as Corbyn’s idea of reopening coal mines and exporting coal. Great environmental policy, eh?

    What century does this man live in? He really is a throwback to the 1980s or earlier.

  28. GhostofJimMorisson

    Quite so. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  29. Dadad1

    Wimmin only carriages ? Totally unacceptable in this day and age. It’s sexism at its worst.


    Perhaps you would be happier elsewhere. Do you have evidence that segregation would make women safer. Perhaps they could go upstairs on the buses, oh sorry men might look up their skirts. No make it the lower deck.

  31. Jane Leach

    As a long time supporter and member of the Labour party I am happy to see us going back to our roots and defending the ordinary people of this country not just big business. It is wrong to believe that we can’t win with Corbyn as he appeals to a large cross section of British people who are tired of seeing the same old faces at the top faces that agree with the Tories. Jeremy Corbyn is the only one of the four would be leaders to have kept his dignity he hasn’t resorted to personal attacks as the others have and he has actually taken a stand against the terrible cuts being thrust onto us. It’s time for a change of direction.

  32. WhiteVanMan

    Women’s transport fears, or do you mean a very small minority

  33. WhiteVanMan

    ALone man can feel very vulnerable from women on a train

  34. WhiteVanMan

    Women only carriages for breastfeeding

  35. GhostofJimMorisson

    Let’s not get silly now.

  36. WhiteVanMan

    It’s was a Reply farages idea that women shouldn’t breastfeed in public

  37. GhostofJimMorisson

    Fair enough. I wasn’t saying that Farage’s ideas were sensible, merely that had he and not Corbyn suggested woman-only carriages, the reaction from feminists and lefties would have been much different.

  38. Jessica Woodrow

    Its terrible that it is like this, but It is obviously necessary. And actually, it does bring attention to the fact that men behave in such a shit way, it can’t be ignored.

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