We must say no to sub­way ha­rass­ment

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Pearl Chen

On the 12th of April, a 28-year-old man was caught by two brave young women af­ter he groped them on one of Bei­jing’s crowded sub­way trains.

De­scribed as the first sub­way mo­lester to be ar­rested this year in Bei­jing by lo­cal news out­lets, the man is said to work as a sales­per­son in Bei­jing. He has since con­fessed his of­fense, but the in­ci­dent was not the first time he was pun­ished for such be­hav­ior. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, he was in­volved in a sim­i­lar case in an­other city.

Ac­cord­ing to the po­lice, the man groped a woman aboard a crowded sub­way train; the woman no­ticed his be­hav­ior, and he moved to an­other part of the train where he groped a sec­ond woman who called for help. The first woman came to her aid, and the two women held onto the man and called the po­lice. The po­lice waited at the next stop and took the man into cus­tody.

Any­one with ex­pe­ri­ence of the daily com­mute in Bei­jing would know that of­ten the city’s many work­ing women and men have to give up a lit­tle bit of de­cency and dig­nity to squeeze onto an al­ready crowded train just to ar­rive at work on time. It is equally tor­ment­ing to ac­knowl­edge that when packed in a train car, it is hard to avoid bod­ily con­tact with peo­ple, men and women alike, who sur­round you from all di­rec­tions. How­ever, such con­tact should def­i­nitely feel different from in­ten­tional grop­ing.

If crowded com­mut­ing is un­avoid­able, what can be done to of­fer com­muters greater dig­nity and com­fort? Could the sub­way sys­tem set up a women-only car? Of course, such a mea­sure would in­volve not only the des­ig­na­tion of a spe­cial pas­sen­ger car, but it would also re­quire cer­tain in­fra­struc­ture and de­sign up­grades at sub­way sta­tions, such as proper sig­nage and marks along the plat­forms. Even if they were to im­ple­ment such changes, it would be pointless be­cause the rush hour crowd is likely to over­ride peo­ple’s best in­ten­tions to queue by sex.

Nev­er­the­less, with sum­mer fast ap­proach­ing, work­ing women in Bei­jing will have to find ways to ad­dress their com­mut­ing chal­lenges, in­clud­ing to­tally shun­ning the sub­way dur­ing rush hour. Of course, it would be sad if the city’s hard­work­ing women have to lose out on Bei­jing’s most ef­fi­cient mode of trans­porta­tion be­cause men can­not keep their hands to them­selves. The so­ci­ety as a whole must nur­ture a cul­ture against grop­ing and ha­rass­ment on the sub­way. A pos­i­tive cul­tural set­ting is the best way to pre­vent and de­ter of­fend­ers. That said, does it re­ally mean Bei­jing sub­way com­muters have to sub­mit to the loss of per­sonal dig­nity dur­ing rush hour? Well, the in­fra­struc­ture re­al­i­ties of the ex­ist­ing sub­way sys­tem seem to sug­gest yes. How­ever, the over­all pub­lic trans­porta­tion and city plan­ning sys­tem still has enor­mous po­ten­tial for growth. The sub­way can be sup­ported by buses, bikes and emerg­ing ride- and bike-shar­ing ser­vices. More strate­gic, longer-term so­lu­tions will need to in­clude the in­te­gra­tion of com­mu­ni­ties to re­place the out­dated city cen­ter-satel­lite town­ship lay­out. Let’s hope Bei­jing’s of­fi­cials will con­tinue to work to find ways to ac­com­mo­date its de­serv­ing, hard­work­ing peo­ple.

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