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Segregation of the sexes is making a comeback in Seoul. The South Korean capitol plans to introduce female-only subway cars in response to sexual assault complaints.The use of female-only subway cars went out of practice in South Korea 20 years ago, but an increasing number of sexual assaults during the commute – often called a “hell ride” – has females demanding the government do something.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of sexual assaults against females rose 80% from 2009 to 2010.
South Korea tried this tactic once before, in 1992, but ended it as males began flouting the rules. Another attempt in 2007 was abandoned when it was shown that more than half of riders were opposed. This time around, beginning in September, the No. 2 line will have a female-only section at night, and security guards will keep men in check.
But there are still some that oppose and doubt the effectiveness of this measure. Among their concerns is the thought that abusers might target women-only cars, or that they don’t address the real core of the problem.
“I don’t think gender segregation is the right direction to solve sexual harassment problems,” Lee Eun-sang, director of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief centre told The Korea Times. “It indicates sexual harassment can be prevented only when men and women are in separate spaces.”
Back in 2005, Japan also instituted female-only train cars to address the same issue, Good Morning America reported.
At that time, almost 64% of women in their 20s and 30s reported being groped on city transit.
In Japan commuters seemed to welcome the cars, which were introduced during the rush hour. Women embraced the safety, and men liked the idea that they wouldn’t be falsely accused of groping – an offence that, at the time, carried a hefty fine or up to seven years in jail.
However, according to the LA Times, Japanese officials say segregated cars running since 2000 have not led to a decrease in sexual offenses.