THE front-runner for the Labour leadership, Jeremy Corbyn, has been condemned by his rivals and anti-sexism campaigners for suggesting there should be women only carriages on trains.
The surprise favourite in the election to be Labour leader made the proposal to tackle growing concern about sexual harassment on public transport.
But the Everyday Sexism Project described women-only carriages as “a real step backwards” while leadership candidates Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall both insisted it was not the appropriate solution.
The number of sex offences on Britain’s railways increased last year, with figures from British Transport Police registering 1,399 sexual offences in 2014-15, up from 1,117 the previous year.
Launching his street harassment policy, Mr Corbyn said: “Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages. My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop, on the mode of transport itself.
“However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome – and also if piloting this at times and on modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.”
He was defended on Twitter by Labour MP Diane Abbott, who nominated him for the leadership, as being “right to draw attention” to the issue.
But Laura Bates, of the Everyday Sexism Project, said: “I think it would be a real step backwards. It sends the message that harassment is inevitable, perpetrators are unable to help themselves and women should simply find a way round it.”
Ms Bates added that it could exacerbate a culture of blaming the victims of sexual attacks.
Tory health select committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston tweeted: “Segregating women on public transport doesn’t protect anyone, it just normalises unacceptable attitudes.”
Ms Cooper, one of the four candidates for the Labour leadership, said: “Segregation to ‘keep women safe’ is turning the clock back, not tackling the problem.”
Ms Kendall said: “I don’t believe gender segregation is the answer. That would be an admission of defeat, rather than a sustainable solution.”