INDONESIA (ACHEH): Women-Only Train Service

Saturday, August 28, 2010
Jakarta Post
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Indonesia's women-only train service launched on Aug. 19, 2010 in Jakarta by the Indonesian state-run railway company, PT Kereta Api, was warmly welcomed mainly by female commuters.

The service has been introduced as an attempt to prevent sexual harassment on public transport after a series of complaints of sexual harassment and assault from women who travel on Jakarta's trains and buses.

Ten series of the carriages of which each series consists of eight railway coaches were launched. Two coaches (the first and eighth coaches) are exclusively provided for women in each commuter train for the Jakarta-Bogor route with pink-cushioned seats as well as female security officers and conductresses assigned on board.

A similar service will also be available in more trains with more destinations. It is reported that 20 more carriages will be launched.

Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar lauded the service and called it an affirmative action to protect women from sexual harassment.

However, some gender experts stated that such a scheme only simplified the real problem as gender awareness was the key issue to clamping down on incidents of sexual harassment.

Even though it doesn't directly address the real issue of gender inequality in Indonesia, it is indeed a good starting point of implementing gender mainstreaming strategy in public transport by considering and perceiving the different habits, life situations and needs of women and men as well as ensuring that women can commute safely and comfortably.

The women-only train service can be considered as an aim to achieve positive sociopolitical changes with an increased orientation toward the needs and wishes of all citizens, women and men. In the context of gender mainstreaming, other similar public services could be provided such as adequate public lighting and safe car parks.

As women become victims of crime and sexual harassment more often than men, high-quality lighting in public areas at night such as doorways, parks, streets, car parks and pedestrian walkways could meet the need for security of women and other pedestrians.

Ladies parking spaces are now provided in some shopping malls and hotels in Jakarta that are strategically located and easily accessible. Such a facility is still rare in Indonesia, which could become a good example of implementing the gender mainstreaming strategy.

The idea of gender mainstreaming strategies is to ensure that both women and men can have equal rights, equal treatment, equal access, equal entitlements and equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from development. Since women and men are different, gender mainstreaming takes into account the different needs, interests and aspirations of women and men.

Today, it is increasingly world widely recognized that gender equality could only be achieved by mainstreaming gender issues in all policies and programs. Gender mainstreaming is in fact an internationally agreed concept adopted at the United Nations Fourth World Women Conference in Beijing in 1995 that has the ultimate goal to achieve gender equality.

Indonesia has adopted gender mainstreaming concept through the 2000 Presidential Instruction 2000.

After the launching of gender mainstreaming in 2000 in Indonesia, conducting gender mainstreaming has become an obligation in government institutions at the national, provincial, district and subdistrict levels.

Many gender responsive programs are executed by governmental institutions in diverse sectors such as the labour force by empowering women's workers and giving training and education by eliminating women's illiteracy and enhancing women's educational skills and talent, and the legal sector by issuing policies to protect women and children as victims of violence.

Gender responsive programs are also fulfilled in other sectors such as agriculture, industrial development, health services, social welfare, environment, disaster relief and social conflict support.

The women-only coaches are part, but not all of the solution. It is in fact a good sign of implementing a gender mainstreaming strategy in Indonesia.

Other countries have demanded the introduction of women-only passenger cars be it railway or subway cars.

Women-only coaches exist also in India with its entire trains only for female passengers, Japan with its train lines during morning rush hour, Malaysia with its several pink-colored reserved coaches for women, South Korea with its special cars, and also in other countries such as Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates.

Women-only coaches in those countries have proven as effective and have received a positive reaction from women and men.

It is fervently hoped that the women-only train service recently launched in Jakarta could continuously provide more comfort and safety for its female passengers. Such a good move should be followed by proper gender awareness and improved public education particularly in regards to respecting women.