Labour MP says ‘merit’ in women-only train carriages

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Women-only train carriages could combat the rise in sexual offences on public transport, a Labour MP has said.

Shadow fire minister Chris Williamson said it would be “worth consulting” on the policy after such crimes doubled in the past five years.

However, Labour colleagues have criticised the move as “normalising attacks”.

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn first suggested the policy during his leadership election campaign in 2015.

Mr Williamson, MP for Derby North, tweeted an article containing figures from the British Transport Police, showing 1,448 sexual offences on trains had been reported in 2016/17, compared with 650 incidents in 2012/13.

He then told PoliticsHome that women-only carriages – which have been tested in countries including Japan, Brazil and Mexico – should be consulted on as they could create a “safe space”.

“It was pooh-poohed [when Mr Corbyn suggested it], but these statistics seem to indicate there is some merit in examining that,” he said.

“Complemented with having more guards on trains, it would be a way of combating these attacks, which have seen a very worrying increase in the past few years.”

Mr Williamson added: “I’m not saying it has to happen, but it may create a safe space. It would be a matter of personal choice whether someone wanted to make use of it.”

‘Make all carriages safe’

The idea for women-only carriages was dropped by Mr Corbyn two years ago after fellow members of his party criticised it, including senior Labour MPs Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

And Mr Williamson’s comments have again been attacked by colleagues.

Walthamstow Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted: “Can we make all carriages safe for all passengers rather than restricting where we can go?

“[It] doesn’t keep women safe to restrict their movements – it normalises attacks. We need to be clear they [the attackers] are problem, not women’s seating plans.”

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said the policy was an “absolutely terrible idea”.

She tweeted: “It is essentially giving up on trying to prosecute assaults. Also men should be incredibly annoyed by [the] suggestion they can’t control themselves.

“Sexual violence isn’t about urges, it’s about power. If you take your feminist cues from Saudi Arabia, you’ve gone wrong.”

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