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Sign on platform indicating boarding point for women only cars

Women-only passenger cars (女性専用車両 josei sen'yō sharyō ?) are railway or subway cars intended for women only. They are offered on some Japanese train lines. Egypt, India, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico, Belarus[1], the Philippines and Dubai[2], also offer women-only train cars, while passengers in some other countries have demanded their introduction. Such cars are slated to be introduced in Seoul, South Korea in 2008[3]. In Japan, the special cars were introduced to combat lewd conduct, particularly groping (chikan). An exemption is made for men with disabilities, who may ride any passenger car.[4] First offered in 2001, all commuter rail and subway companies in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan's two biggest cities, run women-only cars.

Women-only policy varies from company to company; some are effective during rush hour, others throughout the day, while some limit women-only cars to rapid service trains, as they tend to be more crowded and have relatively longer distances between stops. But in general, the policy is effective only on weekdays, excluding holidays. Platforms and train doors are marked with signs indicating boarding areas for the cars, and the days and times when the cars are women-only. Also, most train operators in Japan allow male elementary school pupils, disabled persons, and their assistants to board women-only cars.[5][6]



Groping in crowded commuter trains has been a problem in Japan; according to a survey conducted by Tokyo Metropolitan Police and East Japan Railway Company, two-thirds of female passengers in their twenties and thirties reported that they had been groped on trains, and the majority had been victimized frequently. Authorities have been unable to control the chikan activities, as trains are too crowded to identify the perpetrators, courts have traditionally been lenient, and victims are too often ashamed to come forward.[7] The police and railway companies responded with poster campaigns to raise awareness and tougher sentences, but have been unable to reverse the trend.[8] In 2004, the Tokyo police reported a threefold increase in reported cases of groping on public transportation over eight years.[9]


Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan[10] for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women by men, with Eve being a reference to the biblical Eve.[11] Considered a problem related to delinquency in youth[12] it is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, inadvertent brushing in public places, catcalls, to outright groping.[13][14][15]

Eve-teasing has been a notoriously difficult crime to prove, as perpetrators often devise ingenious ways to attack women, even though many feminist writers term it as "little rapes"[16], and usually occur in public places, streets, and public transport.[17]


Passengers waiting to board a women-only car on Keiō Line, at Shinjuku Station, Tokyo

Women-only cars had been in operation in Japan as early as 1912 on the present day Chuo Main Line. The cars, known as Hana-Densha (花電車 ?, lit. "flower train"), were introduced to prevent female students, who attended the many all-girls schools along the line, from having their "beautiful figures looked at and enjoyed" by their male counterparts.[18] Cars reserved for female school students also ran in Osaka in the 1950s, but that and the "flower train" were discontinued in 1973.[19]

In December 2000, Keio Electric Railway, which operates train between Tokyo and its suburbs, offered women-only cars during late night on a trial basis, in response to complaints about groping by drunk men during the bōnenkai party season.[19] Keio began running trains with late-night women-only cars on a full-time basis in March 2001.[20]

In July 2001, JR East began a similar service on Saikyo Line, which connects Tokyo with Saitama Prefecture and had become notorious for gropers because of crowding and longer distances between stops.[21][22] The following year, the service was extended to evening rush hour.

Sign next to door of coach
Sign at Taipei Main Station, Taiwan

In July 2002, JR West became the third company in Japan to start running trains with women-only cars, and the JR West trains in Osaka became the first to offer women-only cars during morning rush hour.[23] The same year, two more Osaka-area railways, Hankyu Railway and Keihan Railway, added women-only cars to their limited express trains, and Hankyu became the first company to run women-only cars all day long.[8] Other Osaka-area companies followed suit, including Osaka Municipal Subway, whose Midosuji Line, which carries passengers at as much as 160 percent capacity, had a reputation for having the worst groping problem in all of Japan.[24]

Tokyo-area companies resisted the change because of logistical difficulties and fear of overcrowding in mixed-gender cars, but in 2005, they introduced women-only cars during rush hour, after awareness campaigns and tougher sentencing proved ineffective.[9][22]


Women-only cars have received positive reaction from some men and some women. Women cited safety from gropers, as well as not having to tolerate various smells.[25] Men cited not having to worry about false accusation of being a chikan.[26]

However, passengers complained about further overcrowding in mixed cars, and feared that women who ride mixed cars would be putting themselves at more risk than before.[9]

Visually-impaired men have been reported to be facing embarrassing experiences with these cars, unknowingly entering a car and being warned by other passengers. Most train companies in fact allow men with disabilities to ride women-only cars, but this is little known to the public.[4]

External links


See also

Sex segregation


  1. ^ "Belarus rail targets 'smelly men'" (in en). BBC News. 2005-04-13. Retrieved 2008-06-11.  
  2. ^ "Dubai Metro" (in en). Retrieved 2008-09-16.  
  3. ^ "Women-only Subway Cars in 2008". Reuters. 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2007-10-31.  
  4. ^ a b "Visually-impaired want railways to clarify stance on riding in women-only carriages". Mainichi Shimbun. 2007-04-05.  
  5. ^ Osaka Prefectural Police: "女性専用車両導入路線一覧表" (20 June 2008). Retrieved on 1 July 2009. (Japanese)
  6. ^ JR East: "女性専用車のご利用について" Retrieved on 1 July 2009. (Japanese)
  7. ^ Lewis, Leo (2004-11-24). "All-women trains are only way to defeat Tokyo bottom pinchers". London: The Times.  
  8. ^ a b "Japan - Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2002". US Department of State. 2003-03-31.  
  9. ^ a b c Joyce, Colin (2004-11-24). "Persistent gropers force Japan to introduce women-only carriages". The Daily Telegraph.  
  10. ^ Here It is called eve-teasing Woman, Body, Desire in Post-colonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality, by Jyoti Puri. Published by Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0415921287. Page 87.
  11. ^ Eve-Teasing The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English, by Grant Barrett. Published by McGraw-Hill Professional, 2006. ISBN 0071458042. Page 109.
  12. ^ Eve-Teasing Image Makers: An Attitudinal Study of Indian Police, by Giriraj Shah. Published by Abhinav Publications, 1993 ISBN 8170172950. Page 233-234.
  13. ^ Lewd nature goes unchecked Kanpur, The Times of India, Feb 26, 2009.
  14. ^ Controlling eve-teasing The Hindu, Tuesday, April 13, 2004.
  15. ^ Harassment in public places a routine for many The Times of India, Jaipur, February 15, 2009.
  16. ^ Rethinking Violence Against Women, by Russell Dobash, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Published by SAGE, 1998. ISBN 0761911871. Page 58.
  17. ^ In Public Spaces: Security in the Street and in the Chowk Women, Security, South Asia: A Clearing in the Thicket, by Farah Faizal, Swarna Rajagopalan. Published by SAGE, 2005. ISBN 0761933875. Page 45.
  18. ^ Freedman, Alisa (March 2002). "Commuting gazes: Schoolgirls, salarymen, and electric trains in Tokyo". The Journal of Transportation History 23 (1): 23–36. ISSN 0022-5266.  
  19. ^ a b "Tokyo trains tackle groping problem". BBC. 2000-12-05. Retrieved 2009-12-31.  
  20. ^ "Annual Report 2001" (PDF). Keio Electric Railway Co., Ltd.  
  21. ^ "Guys locked out as services suck up to gals". Mainichi Daily News. 2001-07-21.  
  22. ^ a b "Lechers give Saikyo Line worst rap for Tokyo trains". International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun. 2005-02-09.  
  23. ^ "JR West begins women-only cars in Osaka". Japan Today. 2002-07-02.  
  24. ^ "Women-only carriages prove no haven from hostilities". Mainichi Daily News. 2002-11-07.  
  25. ^ Doi, Emi (2005-05-30). "Women-Only Cars on Commuter Trains Cause Controversy in Japan". Knight Ridder.  
  26. ^ "Japan Tries Women-Only Train Cars to Stop Groping". ABC News. 2005-06-10.  


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