Authorities in the central Chinese city of Chongqing have rejected the idea of providing designated women-only cars on its subway system.

According to local paper the Chongqing Morning Post, many passengers had written to the Chongqing State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission via its open mailbox system asking it to set up women-only carriages. They also asked for staff to supervise the cars to ensure the safety of female travellers.

A women-only carriage in Japan. Photo: Wikicommons.

The commission said in a response that the rail transit system in Chongqing is not currently suitable for women-only cars.

It said that women-only cars established in other countries had their supporters, but also met with opposition. It cited opposing opinions such as increased psychological pressure on women who sit in regular cars, and the idea that it could discriminate against men by treating them as criminals. It also was concerned that families or couples traveling together would end up riding in separate cars.

It said that the suggestion would need to be supported by policy, which doesn’t currently exist. More education and advertising would be needed to increase public support.

It also mentioned that cameras are installed in each car, and that the rail corporation will step up its watch over sexual harassment incidents and collect effective evidence to protect women’s rights.

In a study released in 2015 by China Youth Daily, 53.4 per cent of 1,899 respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment on buses or subways, according to Chinanews. 64.8 per cent of respondents were women.

Despite mixed opinions on whether women-only carriages can effectively reduce sexual harassment, some Asian countries and places in China have experimented with the idea of gender segregation. Women-only carriages were set up in Japan over a decade ago. Taiwan briefly set up women-only carriages in 2006, but the idea was abandoned after a three-month trial.

A sign in Taiwan. Photo: Wikicommons.

In January, Shanghai NPC deputy Shen Qunhui suggested women-only carriages during peak times at the local legislative meeting. She suggested rolling it out in phases, and revising rules along the way to determine the times when the carriages will run and to ensure that women can bring along children and men with disabilities in the women-only carriage during peak times.

The idea was also suggested in Beijing by two members of China’s top political advisory body two years ago, but officials said there was no specific plan to do so.

Zhengzhou set up women-only buses on one of its routes during peak times for the summer season last year, and Wuhan opened women-only waiting areas in 2012 to combat sexual harassment, the first Chinese city to do so.

Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation said in October it had no plans to set up women-only carriages because it said they would make it more difficult for MTR staff to manage passenger traffic.


Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.