A privilege or a necessity? What I think about women-only MRT coaches
All for safer spaces
On 18 September 2023, RapidKL took to Instagram to announce the start of women-only coaches for the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang line. The existence of women-only coaches isn’t something new from RapidKL, as the KTM had implemented ladies-only coaches in 2010 so it was only time before the MRT followed suit.
What I believe precipitated this initiative is the harassment case that happened at the Maluri LRT platform last July, where a woman was harassed and attacked by a man. The attacker was seen holding her down as she was screaming for help, while a few other LRT users were trying to help her by punching and kicking him and pulling the woman away. Personally, this case was one of the most uncomfortable public harassments I’ve seen.
As someone who takes the train (and has had her fair share of uncomfortable situations), I rejoiced when they announced it because I could finally take the train with a little more peace of mind. What took me by surprise even more was that for the next few days, the management was extremely strict about it—they had police officers at the platform guarding the doors and making sure only women boarded the coach. At each stop, these officers would also step inside the coach to check its occupants.
So it looked like we were off to a great start. Well…
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Now, of course, nothing good comes without some sort of backlash. On 24 September 2023, Instagram user @muthuwrites posted a few statements about the launch of the women-only MRT coaches and this sparked a whole online discourse. In his post, he questioned why this was even a necessity, even posing questions like, “Does this mean female passengers aren’t allowed to enter regular coaches?” and “If an elderly man struggles to enter the regular coaches because it’s full of people, can he enter the female-coaches instead?”
As I read through his post, I couldn’t help but get angry at the lack of empathy and the sense of entitlement that was obvious. How could someone be so off the mark about something? However, do note that he wasn’t the only one who had something negative to say about this implementation. If you looked through posts that talked about the women-only coach, there are a few comments that questioned the necessity of it all—with a user even asking why women-only spaces like parking lots and coaches even existed.
As I mentioned earlier, in defence of all things women-only, I believe that these facilities are necessary. If people can’t be bothered to behave in public then sometimes the higher-ups stepping in place is imperative to get things in order.
Although it’s unfortunate to say, women’s safety in public spaces has always been questionable. In a recent study in Kuala Lumpur, 27.6 per cent of female respondents perceived the public space negatively, compared to only 9.3 per cent of male respondents—which, although isn’t surprising, is jarring, to say the least.
As we raise the topic of sexual harassment, do note that we’re not undermining the problem for men. The existence of women-only coaches does not trump or invalidate harassment for males. In fact, The Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) told The Star that there has been an increase in the number of men reporting for harassment, and from the 762 cases reported from 6 July to 2 October 2023, 187 were from men.
This issue is acknowledged. But in public spaces like train stations and coaches, women are often more vulnerable to attacks.
While I truly tried my best to understand both narratives, the difference between the two is too big to ignore. In an ideal world, of course, we would want things to be equal in every way. However, some things are unfortunately easier said than done. While laws and regulations are put in place, there are still people who just don’t abide by them.
Public safety for everyone is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, if there are initiatives taken to protect women, I believe it just shouldn’t be questioned because statistics show that we are the ones who do feel uncomfortable in spaces—it has never been about keeping women in a shell or overprotecting them.
Look at it this way, women-only spaces serve as a buffer and a safe space. Sisterhood between women is something that’s rather sacred and we would feel more comfortable in a space where it’s just us. We’re tired of being told that we should’ve done something better, when the problem was never about what we did or didn’t do.
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