Putri Prameshwari & Ulma Haryanto
Jakarta. In a response to several sexual harassment cases on the capital’s TransJakarta bus routes, state rail company Kereta Api launched the country’s first women-only train car on Thursday.
Fitted out with pink seats, the train cars will initially be available for Depok-bound trains in the Greater Jakarta area, an official from Kereta Api has said.
“One female officer will guard each carriage. We want to protect women from becoming victims of sexual harassment,” said Makmur Syaheran, corporate secretary for Kereta Api Commuter Jabodetabek.
He added that the operator expected demand to be brisk for the segregated cars because more than half of all passengers on commuter trains serving Greater Jakarta were female.
“For now, it will only be available for passengers of executive class trains,” Makmur said, adding that women on economy class trains would have to make do with compartments that housed hundreds of passengers crammed shoulder to shoulder.
The operator eventually hopes to have two women-only cars available for each train.
“We want to prevent sexual harassment cases from happening on public transportation, as has occurred on several occasions on the TransJakarta busway,” Makmur said.
But when asked about possible punishments against male passengers who boarded the new women-only cars, Makmur said there were none.
“They will be embarrassed anyway, since there are clear signs stating that they are women-only cars,” he said.
In at least three previous sexual harassment cases on the busway, the suspects had alledgedly continued to grope the victims even after they had moved away or showed clear signs of discomfort or distress.
Ninik Rahayu, deputy chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, said she supported the initiative so long as the government also instituted a long-term plan to combat sexual harassment.
“Even up until now, security and law enforcement cannot assure the safety of women in public spaces. Having a women-only carriage is just an initial step in protecting women from sexual harassment,” she said.
But Ninik also said there was a need for increased education and public awareness about the damage that sexual harassment could inflict on its victims.
“Because we can’t just segregate everything. So I see this as a short-term solution,” she said. “I hope that the government has a clear mandate on this matter.”
Huzna Zahir, chairwoman of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI), agreed with Ninik.
“This is a temporary solution given to women who really feel cornered and insecure. It’s not meant to discriminate against women,” she said.
Huzna also called for more common sense in planning to minimize the risks that women encountered on the country’s crumbling public transportation networks, “for instance by increasing the number of cars.”
“But if it is going to be applied at all, then the procedures, information and sanctions, should be clear to everybody,” she added.
Greater Jakarta commuter trains currently serve routes linking Jakarta with outlying cities Serpong, Tangerang, Bogor, Depok and Bekasi. Major stations in the city include Palmerah in West Jakarta; Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta; and Sudirman and Manggarai in South Jakarta.
The 150-kilometers of train line also includes a city loop that stops at stations including Jatinegara in East Jakarta; Tanah Abang, Pasar Senen and Kampung Ambon in Central Jakarta; and Sudirman and Manggarai in South Jakarta.