Women-only subway cars in China spark debate about gender equality


China continues to show a lack of respect toward women. Women-only subway cars, an effort to eliminate sexual harassment toward women, will never work. This convoluted law is wishful thinking at its finest.

China, represented as a modernizing and progressing country, still has a lot of work to do regarding gender equality.

According to The New York Times, women who have been sexually harassed almost never report it to the police. Therefore, those who commit such heinous crimes are almost never caught and punished. China needs to address these problems immediately.

Being touched when out in public is no laughing matter. These disturbing acts are not limited to only subway cars.

According to The New York Times, “The government bans gender discrimination but does not define what it is. Those who complain risk getting punished.”

It is incomprehensible why women would be punished for complaining about gender discrimination in a country striving for global leadership.

Equality is a divine right for all individuals, and to have a country or a government that does not grant such rights to its citizens is simply blasphemous.

The issue of harassment taking place on subway cars was approached so halfheartedly by the Chinese government that it is difficult to take it seriously.

Quoted in The New York Times, Ye Zichuan, head of the Guangzhou Metro’s publicity department, said that based on legal precedent, the state could not separate passengers by force. He also emphasized that the subway cars were marked for women, but not “only for women.” This is not a joke. It is not another episode of Seinfeld.

China did in fact pass a law to segregate male and female subway cars and then publicly admitted that it was unable to enforce the law. It is hypocritical to create such a law to prevent sexual harassment, only to then turn a blind eye when the law is broken.

It is one thing that China took as long as it did to correct this issue, and when it finally did, the women in Guangzhou had to grapple with a new problem, a lack of law enforcement. These missteps appear to be a genuine lack of respect more so than anything else. They highlight how China refuses to take sexual harassment and sexual assault seriously.

It is incorrect to lay all the blame on those male individuals who were using the women-only subway cars. Guangzhou has one of the busiest metro systems in the world, leading to a constantly overcrowded subway system. It is thus an inevitability that the two cars reserved for women would not be respected.

People are always rushing to work or rushing back to their families at the end of the day; threatening punishment for use of women-only cars will never work in a busy city like Guangzhou.

The Chinese government, as well as the society, should come to grips with the reality of the 21st century. Touching women inappropriately on trains, when all they are trying to do is go to work, is disgusting. However, the lack of sustained action by the government to address these problems is much more egregious.

The Chinese government is failing its country, which is supposedly built and maintained by the power of the people.