Banu Tuna – BURSA
A new project that introduced female-priority carriages on intra-city trains in the northwestern Turkish province of Bursa has drawn criticism from some locals.
“You cannot end sexual harassment by putting women in separate carriages. Women and men come together in other environments too. You cannot avert it this way,” passenger Irmak Aslan said.
A 40-year-old male passenger, who was traveling with his son in the “female-priority” carriage, said he wanted to show his reaction against the newly enacted regulation.
“I waited for the subway to arrive with the ‘priority for women’ sign. Would I not be allowed to get on the same carriage with my daughter if I had one?” he said.
The Bursa Municipality has decided to give priority in the last carriages of intra-city metro trains to the use of women, placing signs on the stations’ platforms indicating: “The carriage for which our female passengers are prioritized.”
Bursa Mayor Recep Altepe said the project was in line with women passengers’ demands.
“There has been such a demand [from women] for many years now. So we said, ‘You may have fewer problems if you travel in the last carriage, which is usually more empty,” Altepe told daily Hürriyet.
The project has drawn strong criticism from many women’s groups in Turkey.
“Bursa is one of the first municipalities to sign the Council of European Municipalities and Regions’ [CEMR] agreement on the equality of women and men in local life agreement. It has set up equality centers across all of its districts. So why is it doing this right now?” said Dilek Üzümcüler from the Mor Salkım Women’s Solidarity Association said.
A number of women’s organizations set up a committee and requested a meeting with Mayor Altepe, but they have reportedly been unsuccessful so far.
On June 10, the Bursa Women’s Platform held its first demonstration against the project, and it has been protesting on social media with a hashtag at 7 p.m. local time every day since then.
The criticism has also included a Change.org petition, with a demand that states: “Our women should not travel in fear and uneasiness, but rather in peace and ease.” The petition, launched by a young man called Talha Aydar, has been signed by over 3,000 people so far.
Bursa Bar Association Women Rights Commission Head Nazlı Ceren Şendoğan said they will take legal action against the regulation.
“This is a violation of women’s freedom of life and freedom of travel. Women make up half of society, so if you allocate only one carriage out of four as a women-only carriage, this violates the equality principle of the constitution,” Şendoğan said.
“The project could also encourage hate speech against women. Will family members get onto trains separately? We don’t yet even know whether this is a council municipality decision or a de facto application. Depending on that, we will decide on the kind of lawsuit we will launch,” she added.
However, some passengers have praised the move.
“After all, we are a Muslim country. I find it normal to have such an application. But I get on whichever wagon comes,” said local man Fatih Toptan.
Another passenger, a Saudi Arabian woman living in Bursa for some time, said she was previously not aware of the project but was pleased to hear that it has been introduced and she would now try to use the women-only train carriages.