I want to put politics aside and address an important issue which no party is doing enough to deal with. This issue is culturally embedded sexism. As a male politician you have done more than most and showed your willing to help and protect women, but unfortunately your new pledge and these ideas to prevent assault in public places is actually part of the problem.
Putting forward ideas to ‘help’ and ‘protect’ women contributes even more to their victimisation. Especially when that help and protection includes segregation. This is exactly what creating separate train carriages for women does. It suggests that ‘men will be men’ and that we should just stay out of their way. It suggests women are always victims and never perpetrators. It also doesn’t practically solve the issue: if women are being assaulted on trains where is it happening?
Without wanting to make assumptions it will be most likely happening on late night and weekend trains where there are fewer passengers. It is probably happening in toilet stalls and corridors rather than in the carriages themselves. Or on the other side of the coin it may be happening on overcrowded trains where you have little choice who you sit or stand next to and an inability to move through the carriages.
I also believe that this solution is very niche. How does it stop street harassment; women being catcalled, verbally abused and groped? How does it stop assaults in bars and clubs, at university or in the workplace? How does it address assaults in the home? Perhaps I am being harsh in expecting measures to address to much but I would be interested to see how much sexual violence and assault on trains contributes to the total figure.
These problems can no longer be sidelined as ‘women’s issues’. These issues affect everyone is society and so society needs to deal with them.
I do also appreciate that this is only an idea which you have put forward for further discussion, but I want to to point out that it is symptomatic of a wider issue in society. Rather than keeping women out of the way of potential harassers can we please nip the issue in the bud, so to speak? By this I mean we should address those who do, or potentially will, harass and assault. Seeing as we still live in a country where rape is under reported and under prosecuted I feel new measures such as the ones proposed will fall short of making any meaningful difference. Instead we need a widespread initiative to address attitudes in society.
These initiatives should address the men who still believe they are entitled to something from women. It should address the catcallers and the husbands and boyfriends who still see it as their right. It should address the men and women who are guilty of slut-shaming, yet another form of victim blaming. It should address the attitudes of women and girls that they need to be modest and appropriate otherwise they will be judged. It should change the attitudes of children now, so that they grow up thinking differently to their parents.
I understand that this is far easier said than done. It will take effort, planning, motivation. It will need to come from top down as well as grassroots projects. It will need to be featured in different areas of societies, through schools, workplaces, TV and social media. But I believe that if any politician can do this it will be Jeremy Corbyn. And that is the kind of thinking I want to see from politicians.
I hope these ideas, coming from a number of writers and bloggers will make politicians and people in general realise that these problems can no longer be sidelined as ‘women’s issues’. These issues affect everyone is society and so society needs to deal with them.