Monday, January 28, 2008

A solution to a social problem that couldn't be tried here

Mexico is now joining a number of other countries (Japan, Brazil, Egypt, and South Korea), reports World Changing, in offer "women-only" transit.

Sexual harassment is a maddeningly ubiquitous problem for female transit users in Mexico City, where subways and buses carry an estimated 22 million passengers every day. Women on the city's overcrowded buses face lecherous comments, groping, and worse. Efforts to stop sexual harassment on public buses have been futile; women report having men put hands up their skirts, kissing them, and following them off the bus.

Mexico City has long had "ladies cars" on subways during rush hour. This month, the city rolled out the first two of what will eventually be more than a dozen women-only buses; the buses are plainly marked with a pink (ugh) sign that says "WOMEN ONLY."

While "separate but equal" public accommodations raise legitimate concerns (will women get the oldest and least reliable buses? will segregating women from men be seen as legitimizing harassment on regular transit? does it create a false sense of security?), it's worth noting that the service originated with requests from women for a safer way to get around the city. Virtually all of the women quoted in stories about the buses speak positively of them, calling it a relief to be free from pinching, groping, and leering. "Traveling among women is so much more pleasant," one said. "With this type of transport, I can dress a little bit better, wear skirts without anyone bothering me," another added.

While I'm not sure that I think this is a good solution, what struck me about this story is that you couldn't try this in the United States, because you run immediately afoul of everyone from the ACLU to the Department of Justice.

When did we get to the point where we allow the government or self-appointed watchdog organizations to tell us, American citizens, what remedies to social problems we may or may not try?


kavips said...

Thanks for covering this.

As a dad, I fully support my daughter wanting to ride on an all-women bus.

It is the second best solution available, considering I am no longer allowed to ride behind her wearing a firearm which would be the more masculine and therefore preferable method to curb male misbehavior.

But of the two options, I think my daughter would prefer an all women bus.

Steve Newton said...

In full accord with your primary solution, my second-best solution (moving yours to third) is to teach my daughter how to use the firearm and get her a permit.

Since Delaware is not a state wherein I can do that, I made her the point guard in a boy's basketball league, so that if necessary she can simply kick their ass.

Oops, that wasn't politically correct was it?