Women-only passenger cars (女性専用車両 josei sen'yō sharyō ) are railway or subway cars intended for women only. They are offered on some Japanese train lines. Egypt, India, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Belarus, the Philippines and Dubai, also offer women-only train cars, while passengers in some other countries have demanded their introduction. In Japan, the special cars were introduced to combat lewd conduct, particularly groping (chikan). An exemption is made for men with disabilities, who may ride any passenger car. First offered in 2001, all commuter rail and subway companies in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan's two biggest cities, run women-only cars.
Women-only policy varies from company to company; some are effective during rush hour, others throughout the day, while some limit women-only cars to rapid service trains, as they tend to be more crowded and have relatively longer distances between stops. But in general, the policy is effective only on weekdays, excluding holidays. Platforms and train doors are marked with signs indicating boarding areas for the cars, and the days and times when the cars are women-only. Thought intended to be exclusive to women, most train operators in Japan allow male elementary school pupils, disabled persons, and their assistants to board women-only cars.
Groping in crowded commuter trains has been a problem in Japan; according to a survey conducted by Tokyo Metropolitan Police and East Japan Railway Company, two-thirds of female passengers in their twenties and thirties reported that they had been groped on trains, and the majority had been victimized frequently. Authorities have been unable to control the chikan activities, as trains are too crowded to identify the perpetrators, courts have traditionally been lenient, and victims are too often ashamed to come forward. The police and railway companies responded with poster campaigns to raise awareness and tougher sentences, but have been unable to reverse the trend. In 2004, the Tokyo police reported a threefold increase in reported cases of groping on public transportation over eight years.
Women-only cars had been in operation in Japan as early as 1912 on the present day Chuo Main Line. The cars, known as Hana-Densha (花電車, lit. "flower train"), were introduced to prevent female students, who attended the many all-girls schools along the line, from having their "beautiful figures looked at and enjoyed" by their male counterparts. Cars reserved for female school students also ran in Osaka in the 1950s, but that and the "flower train" were discontinued in 1973.
In December 2000, Keio Electric Railway, which operates train between Tokyo and its suburbs, offered women-only cars during late night on a trial basis, in response to complaints about groping by drunk men during the bōnenkai party season. Keio began running trains with late-night women-only cars on a full-time basis in March 2001.
In July 2001, JR East began a similar service on Saikyo Line, which connects Tokyo with Saitama Prefecture and had become notorious for gropers because of crowding and longer distances between stops. The following year, the service was extended to evening rush hour.
In July 2002, JR West became the third company in Japan to start running trains with women-only cars, and the JR West trains in Osaka became the first to offer women-only cars during morning rush hour. The same year, two more Osaka-area railways, Hankyu Railway and Keihan Railway, added women-only cars to their limited express trains, and Hankyu became the first company to run women-only cars all day long. Other Osaka-area companies followed suit, including Osaka Municipal Subway, whose Midosuji Line, which carries passengers at as much as 160 percent capacity, had a reputation for having the worst groping problem in all of Japan.
Tokyo-area companies resisted the change because of logistical difficulties and fear of overcrowding in mixed-gender cars, but in 2005, they introduced women-only cars during rush hour, after awareness campaigns and tougher sentencing proved ineffective.
Women-only cars have received positive reaction from some men and some women. Women cited safety from gropers, as well as not having to tolerate various smells. Men cited not having to worry about false accusation of being a chikan.
However, passengers complained about further overcrowding in mixed cars, and feared that women who ride mixed cars would be putting themselves at more risk than before.
Visually-impaired men have been reported to be facing embarrassing experiences with these cars, unknowingly entering a car and being warned by other passengers. Most train companies in fact allow men with disabilities to ride women-only cars, but this is little known to the public.
Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women by men, with Eve being a reference to the biblical Eve. In Mumbai, Ladies Special trains have been introduced to allow women working and studying in the city to travel without the fear of Eve-teasing, for the length of the journey at least. With the number of women needing to travel doubling since 1995, there is a very strong demand for these kinds of services.
As response to many reports of sexual harassments in public places, including commuter trains and buses, PT Kereta Api, an Indonesian railway company has launched women-only carriages installed in some commuter trains in Jakarta metropolitan area in August 2010.
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