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More women-only coaches on trains to curb sexual harassment

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia is planning to roll out more women-only coaches on its trains after having implemented them on two Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) lines, in efforts to curb sexual harassment and ensure a safer ride for women passengers.

The move is welcomed by riders of both genders.

Housewife Ee Lee Lee, 55, said she was all for women-only coaches as her daughter attends a local university and uses public transport daily.

“As mothers, we worry, so I told my daughter she must sit in the women-only coach if possible, for peace of mind,” she told The Straits Times.

She said she would also do so, especially after a man once followed her on the train.

General manager Bahrudin A. Rahman, who was travelling on the MRT with his family, said: “I can see that it is well-organised on Malaysian trains... When women are separated from the men, they won’t have to jostle with each other for seats.”

MRT operator Rapid KL first introduced its women-only coach on the Kajang line in September 2023, and then on the Putrajaya line on April 8.

There have been women-only coaches on KTM Komuter suburban trains, operated by commuter rail company KTM, since April 2010.

Malaysia is not the only country to have set aside women-only sections on the public transportation system to ensure safer rides for women travellers.

Women-only cars have long been a thing on the Japanese metro, meant for women to feel comfortable, away from the threat of sexual harassment or possible groping, especially during the rush hour.

The Rio de Janeiro Metro in Brazil has dedicated passenger cars for women, as does the Cairo Metro in Egypt. Other countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Iran also have women-only carriages on their commuter trains, as a preventive measure against unwelcome attention from men.

In India, there are even “Ladies’ Special” trains where the entire train, not just one or two compartments, is reserved for women during peak hours.

Since the women-only coach on Malaysia’s Kajang MRT line was introduced in response to concerns from female commuters about the sexual harassment they faced in crowded trains, Rapid KL has received fewer such complaints, Transport Minister Anthony Loke told The Star daily in December 2023.

“In the first quarter of 2023, we received eight complaints of harassment; in the second quarter, 11; and in the third quarter, eight.

“From the time we implemented the women-only coach (in September) to November, the complaints had dropped to three so far,” he said.

“This was even as ridership had increased,” he noted.

“Of the total ridership on all Rapid KL lines, 62 per cent are women, or six out of every 10,” Mr Loke said, adding: “As responsible men, we should also support this initiative. We want our mothers, sisters and wives to be safe.”

The women-only MRT coaches are clearly labelled with pink stickers inside and outside the cabins, as well as on platforms and doors.

Regular announcements are made at the stations reminding female commuters to fill up the “pink” coaches first, and encouraging passengers to report any incidents of sexual harassment.

Volunteers and auxiliary police patrol the trains and stations to stop men from entering the women’s coaches. There is also closed-circuit television monitoring these coaches.

Currently, there is no penalty for men who board the coaches meant for women.