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Women carriages on GZ metro: More civilized or more chaos?
Su Zhongyang, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Guangdong Provincial Committee, recently proposed that Guangzhou set up women-only (or more precisely, women-first) carriages on the metro.


Su Zhongyang, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Guangdong Provincial Committee, recently proposed that Guangzhou set up women-only (or more precisely, women-first) carriages on the metro.
“To curb groping, protect pregnant women and babies, and make the facility more friendly to female passengers,” he explained.
His proposal is not without reasons. Last year, a man was caught groping multiple women on the Shenzhen metro and was arrested by the police. Similar incidents were also reported to have happened on the Guangzhou metro. 

“The metro could get really crowded in peak times, and when packed tight with total male strangers, women could be embarrassed and more likely exposed to groping, especially in summer with lighter clothing,” Su said. “Pregnant women could even face danger in rush hours.”
The proposal was embraced by many. Wang Rong, chairman of the CPPCC provincial committee, led a team to conduct a field survey on the proposal in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Liu Qingsheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Shenzhen Municipal Committee, echoed the proposal, saying that the city would try the special carriages on a few metro lines this month before expanding it to others.
The women-first carriages, for pregnant women and babies especially, are expected to run along with men-only carriages (for old, ill or physically challenged men) and the normal ones. The proposal calls for the head and tail carriages of metro trains to be used for such purposes. They would be painted pink, with signs and directions on the platform and the trains to direct people to the carriages.
The proposal also explained that it is not compulsory for men to stay out of the women-first carriages. Men are free to board those carriages except during specific hours. The idea is a considerate recommendation, but it also raises a lot of questions about its practicability.
To curb sexual harassment?

“Those are occasional incidents,” a Guangzhou Metro spokesperson said, regarding the proposal’s aim to block sexual harassment. “The city metro has been rated as having the lowest incident rate of offenses for years in a row by the international Community of Metros (CoMET).”
Wu Maozhu, another member of the CPPCC provincial committee, along with others, thought that setting up such carriages wouldn’t actually prevent sexual harassment. Passenger flow control and surveillance cameras are more likely to do the job. But, the idea is appreciated, as it advocates decency and respect for women, which are highly valued in modern civilization.
To cause inadequate use of metro resources?
The metro companies in Guangzhou and Shenzhen worried that such practice would add to the crowdedness of the metro.
“With some carriages reserved for women, the metro may not be able to accommodate all the passengers, especially when the privileged ones fail to get to the special carriages and the male passengers are not supposed to fill in,” said the spokesperson for the Guangzhou Metro.
Management issues?
Relevant laws and regulations, such as those on urban rail traffic management in Guangzhou, haven’t stipulated that male passengers shall not enter female carriages. There’s no guarantee that this will work. Poor performance will bring complaints, and as the operator is not in the position to enforce any rules, the practice might eventually lose its purpose for existence, the local metro spokesperson contended.
Security problems?
When the passengers are let in the platform, they tend to wait for the trains in front of the doors of random carriages. But with the women-first carriages fixed only at a certain part of the train, mothers need to go against the crowd to get to their special carriages, which could cause collisions and chaos as people rush to catch the train.
“Women and children might be slow to cope with emergencies and get themselves to safety,” suggested an official with the Shenzhen Metro. “Could it be safe enough to have such a setting?”
Discrimination against men?
Some worried that the women-first carriage system would cause inconvenience and discontent among male passengers.
“We need to strike a balance between protecting women and upholding equality,” said Wang Jianping, another member of the CPPCC provincial committee.
Liu Qingsheng also pointed out that respect for women is a common understanding internationally. Male passengers would consider this when they think about their mothers, wives and daughters, he suggested.
The time is not yet ripe?
Currently around the world, nine countries, including Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, India, Mexico and Brazil, have set up women-only carriages on the city metro. But the practice is still new to China. None of the 31 cities with metro in China has adopted such a system so far.
All being said, women-first carriages require a whole set of supporting facilities and a bunch of changes in management if the idea is to work. “It’s not yet the time to establish such a setting,” remarked Zhang Haiyan, an official with the Guangzhou Metro.

(By Sophia Tang, Louis Berney)
Editor:Joanna You
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