Push for women-first MTR coaches to beat sex pests

Top News | Ellen He 17 Jul 2017

The MTR has come under pressure to introduce women-priority coaches as the latest poll shows that more than a third of women commuters have been sexually harassed on public transport.

The railway told The Standard it has no such plan as yet as this would affect its crowd-control management.

But lawmaker Elizabeth Quat, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said women-only coaches are a must to reduce cases of sexual offenses.

Hong Kong's neighbors Shenzhen and Guangzhou have already introduced such a system, as has Tokyo.

"We want to give this choice to women," said Quat and fellow DAB district council member Vincent Cheng Wing-shun.

An online survey by the Women's Affair Committee of the DAB said 80 percent of women and 65 percent of men support women-only carriages.

In the first three months of this year, 23 sexual harassment cases were reported to the police.

In 2016, there were 149 sexual harassment cases on the MTR, a 21 percent increase compared with 2015.

In the latest case last Saturday, a 66-year-old man was arrested for allegedly sexually harassing a 25-year-old woman on the East Rail Line. "The number of reported cases is just a small part of the whole picture," Quat said.

The survey shows 90 percent of victims do not turn to the police for help, which means most cases go unreported. Three-fifths stay silent because they believe it is hard to produce evidence of harassment, and 16 percent do not want to be embarrassed.

Both Quat and another DAB member, Elaine Chik Kit-ling, said they had been harassed on the MTR. "Bumping into female passengers, touching the chest with elbows and touching sensitive body parts when a carriage is crowded are common types of harassment," Chik said.

Shenzhen and Guangzhou adopted the women-priority policy at the end of June. In Shenzhen, the first and last cars of selected metro lines are marked as women-priority.

The MTRC gave two reasons why it is not considering the policy: most trains are of open design, so it will reduce the flexibility of passenger movement between compartments and because the MTR is busy so women- only compartments will influence crowd control.

"But Tokyo, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are busy as well," Quat said.

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