German Train Operator’s New ‘Women and Children Only’ Cars Spark Controversy

March 30, 2016, 2:22 AM UTC
Views Of Frankfurt's Financial District As German Economy Boosted By Domestic Demand
Railway trains sit on tracks near Frankfurt main station in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. German domestic demand, buoyed by a stable labor market and low oil prices, will propel the country's economic growth this year and compensate for slowing exports as emerging economies stumbles. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The German train operator Regiobahn announced it will offer cars designated for “women and children only,” the New York Times reported this week. Two trains, the Leipzig and Chemitz lines, will offer the special cars, which will strategically board and exit near ticketing and customer service counters in stations.

The announcement prompted speculation that it’s related to Germany’s recent spate of sexual assault reports that took place in public spaces, including the widespread attacks on women during New Year’s Eve in Cologne, allegedly by migrants. Response by authorities has led to much public controversy. In a statement, however, Regiobahn denied that the measure was related to these events.

Germany is not the first country to offer segregated cars for women and children. According to The Guardian, countries including Iran, Japan, India, UAE, and Egypt have them—places “where women face institutional discrimination, severe sexual harassment, or both,” the article said.

It seems responses have been mixed: in some cases, rules either aren’t enforced or aren’t observed, and in the case of Indonesia, the cars were eventually reconverted. Some argue the efforts are a step back, and that more resources should go toward stopping perpetrators. Others say the cars offer a reprieve from groping and other forms of harassment and make passengers feel safe.

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