A Women’s Only Train Compartment?

A Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn Train at Leipzig Central Station awaiting departure to Chemnitz. Photo taken in February 2016
A Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn Train at Leipzig Central Station awaiting departure to Chemnitz. Photo taken in February 2016

 

Imagine this scenario: You travel on a regional train from Leipzig to Chemnitz, but wanting to get off at Geithain for an interview for a teaching post at a local school. The train has seven coaches like the picture above, but are mostly full of passengers. You try to find a seat somewhere so you can practice your presentation to give to the interview panel. You walk through one coach full of children returning to a school in Bad Lausick after a field trip to a popular church in Leipzig. Another coach is full of football hooligans from RB Leipzig as they prepare to crash the party in a friendly match with Chemnitz FC, taking place in the evening, the next two coaches are full of passengers, but one male is spying on a woman in the next coach you are entering, which is full of women and children. The sign says for women as well as children up to 10 years of age only.  You see mostly women occupying the seats, ranging from nuns and teachers to businesswomen and mothers nursing babies. You find it awkward but decide to pass on to the next coach, where you finally find a seat. Two seconds after you sit down, the aforementioned male predator sits next to his prey and pries her privacy open, only to get the “Blauste Wunder seines Lebens”- in other words, the biggest but most unpleasant surprise of his life (I’ll leave the scene up to the women to complete the story to their liking). 😉

Then the light bulb goes on!  Having a women’s compartment on the train is a great idea, but is it really worth it and why?

This experiment is being attempted by the Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn (MRB), where such a compartment mentioned in this situation is being reserved for women and children. Unless granted, men are not allowed to sit in the compartment reserved for this group. The experiment is intended to make the female passengers feel safer while traveling, according to a statement by the MRB. Other countries have similar coaches reserved only for women, such as Japan, Indonesia, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico and India, while Great Britain is experimenting with reserving areas of the public transport trains, street cars and busses for women. While the goal is to protect women from being sexually harassed or assaulted, this measure presented by MRB has nothing to do with that, nor the incident on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, where over 1000 reports of women being sexually assaulted were made. Only one person has been charged. The attacks have sparked a backlash against refugees coming to Germany, as many assailants originated from the Middle East and Africa, according to the reports. Many refugees have been harassed and assaulted by right-wing extremists, their places of lodging were set ablaze, and the right populist party Alternative für Deutschland has been gaining success and votes as their anti-immigration policies have gained enormous support and traction.

Yet the idea of having a women’s only compartment on trains have sparked emotional outrage between those who are for such measures and those who consider it absurd. The article and question for the forum posted on many facebook pages including that of the Files’ have been met with mixed results. Proponents of such a measure believe that it would serve as place of refuge against people who are potential predators, giving them a warning of not to cross into their territory unless (….). Some who have supported this either experienced such incidents in person or know someone who has encountered such a person. Opponents claim that by designating areas solely for women would be going back to the age of segregation, where every facility was divided up between White people and Black people only, resulting in the likes of Rosa Parks breaking the barriers on the bus and Martin Luther King Jr. having a dream in his historical speech in Washington in 1963. Some people responded sarcastically by proposing everyone wearing burkas and having a men’s only cars, which had existed in Saudi Arabia until just recently. Others claim that such an arrangement is not enough and that more police protection and stiffer penalties are needed to keep predators and stalkers away. This includes longer sentences in prison and heavier fines. The German government has introduced tough measures to deport refugees committing such crimes, yet psychological counseling is patchy and only a fraction of the population, both victim and perpetrator alike, receive treatment, regardless of country of origin.

This leads to the question of the effectiveness of such a designation in the trains. Speaking from personal experience traveling in the family compartment of an ICE Train such designations are crowded and unwelcomed by “normal” passengers who believe that the safest and most convenient way to travel is by car. A 2011 article explains why (click here). Furthermore, should it be successful in the MRB, how can other railroad providers designate them in their trains, as the newer models are either double-decker InterCitys or sleaker Abellios, both of which have a major caveat, which is space availability, especially if other passengers have bikes to take with (another article written in 2011 on bike space can be found here).  The intentions are there, but better is civil courage either by standing up and saying NO or having others nearby stand up and help by shooing the person away. Then the person should be reported and tough(-er) measures will help him understand the meaning of NO! There are many reasons why women say no, and an article written by a columnist explains the meaning and reason why NO is used and many times ignored (click here)

Inspite of the opinions from all sides, the question will be whether this new experiment will be the norm for all rail services in the future, or if it will become a fad and other measures to protect people regardless of gender and ethnic background. Right now, the experiment is being tried on the trains traveling between Leipzig and Chemnitz along the Black-and-Blue Line, which connects the two with Halle and Magdeburg, each city having a storied history with their soccer teams and rivalries. If successful, it is expected to be expanded to other lines, and eventually to other train services, including the Bahn.

But is it really necessary?

frage für das forum

 

 

1. Do you think having a women and children’s coach in the train is appropriate? Why or why not? Make a list of advantages and disadvantages before answering, apart from the ones mentioned in the article.

2. Does your country have similar arrangements to the one being performed by the MRB? How does it work?

3. What measures does your home country have to protect women from predators and stalkers? Have they worked to date?

4.Using the two pictures below, how would you envision a women only compartment? Keep in mind that the double-decker train is an InterCity train with 10-12 coaches and the Abellio is a regional train similar to the MRB but has only one whole coach that can seat up to 300 passengers. Use your imagination. 🙂

ICabellioflefi deutschland logo

Christmas and Holidays, where Peace and Goodwill Meet

Christmas and the Holidays: where peace and goodwill meet. Where differences are put aisde and family and friends reunite to talk about memories and the future. There have been some concerns recently that Christmas was becoming more based on consumption and profits, thus making some people don their Ebenezer Scrooge outfits, while the Robert Cratchits increase in numbers. One of the examples is stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving, a holiday that is considered as sacred as Christmas, instead of doing that on Black Friday at 9:00am.

And while some department stores are bucking this new trend, as seen with Nordstroms, The Home Depot, Marshalls, and Ace Hardware, there’s one store chain, located outside the US, that is taking Christmas to a more personal level. Sainsbury’s in Great Britain, in commemoration with the 100th anniversary of World War I, produced a rather heart-throbbing commercial to kick off the holiday shopping season. Here’s the video clip for you to watch:

 

And even when Britain and Germany was at war with each other, both sides took the time to put aside their differences and exchange stories and gifts, play soccer, and even learn each other’s language. Don’t you think you can do this as well? Since that time, we’ve found ways to forgive each other, break down barriers, and even help each other when in need. But we have also not forgotten what war and ignorance can do to another person. I remember a poster on one of the streets in a German community that says it all: Looking at the poor with houses destroyed through war and empty baskets with no food with the slogan- the biggest catastrophe is ignorance.

So this Christmas and this holiday season, take a few minutes of your time and do something that you’ve been meaning to do for a long time but could not because of barriers that kept you from doing so. Donate blood and/or food to those who need it. Contact someone you fell out years before but would like to make amends. Visit those whom you haven’t seen in a long time, family or friend alike. Put aside your differences and find the similarities that bring you together. Open up and learn something new from others.  Do something that others will benefit from. Only then, will you not only build bridges and break down the barriers. You and those affected will benefit a great deal.  As seen with the Fall of the Berlin Wall, both sides wanted it: the easterners because they wanted to be free, and the westerners because they wanted one Germany instead of two.  We have a lot to do but it just takes a little bit of your time to do it.

So away with the shopping carts. Go to the kitchen and prepare a great meal for those in need. They’ll thank you for that. 🙂

BTW: Sainsbury might have stolen all the awards for this advert. Well done, indeed!

 

Happy Children’s Day

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When was the last time you did something special for your child? Did you take him/her to the zoo to feed the animals, throw a party and invite his/her friends over, or made a special treat for him/her? If it has been a while and you have not had a chance to make a child happy, then today is the day. While we have special days of celebration for mothers and fathers, today is Children’s Day, where we take pride in our children and do something really special for them.
The interesting part about Children’s Day is that for the most part, they are celebrated on two different days: 20 November and 1 June, which is today. The one on 20 November was based on an proclamation by the International Union of Child Welfare in Geneva in 1953, which was later supported through an agreement with the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, calling it Universal Children’s Day. Five years later, a Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN and signed by all its members 30 years later.
While Universal Children’s Day is still being proclaimed by the UN to this day, most countries in the world celebrate Children’s Day independently instead of celebrating it with the UN- Canada is one of a handful of countries that have Children’s Day on the same day as the UN’s Universal Children’s Day. The main date of celebration is 1 June, as an International Day of Children was proclaimed in 1950, based on agreements made by countries in the former Soviet Bloc, including East Germany. When Communism made a rapid descent to oblivion beginning with the Berlin Wall falling on 9 November and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the former states continued to celebrate Chidren’s Day on 1 June. East and West Germany had their Children Day celebrations on two separate dates: 20 September in the western half and 1 June in the eastern half. Since the Reunification, the country has still celebrated Children’s Day on two separate dates. Officially it follows Canada’s suit, yet still the former East German states celebrate on 1 June.  Interesting enough, the USA is one of only a few countries where Children’s Day is recognized in regions within their own boundaries. Although Children’s Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday in June since President George W. Bush introduced it in June 2001, many communities, states and churches celebrate either earlier or later, thus making the national holiday obsolete. And is there a country that does NOT celebrate Children’s Day or even recognize Universal Children’s Day? You betcha, and alarming enough, you find this on European soil- in Great Britain. With claims that it is a holiday that is wasted and keeps children out of schools, as Gordon Brown claimed during his time as Prime Minister, Children’s Day is not celebrated in the UK, although its western neighbor, Ireland, celebrates this day on 25 March. (Makes me wonder whether current Premier David Cameron should set an example for others like Brown to follow….)
So what do children do on this special day? It varies from country to country. In places like Ecuador, Albania and Bulgaria, children receive gifts from their parents and other family members. In places like Australia and New Zealand, they organize activities around annual themes that deal with domestic issues and children. In some places, like Mexico, children are honored with activities, parades and other events. Bulgarians promote children’s safety by driving with their lights on all day long. In Vanuatu, children make speeches addressing the issues like child labor and abuse, while being honored through parades, etc. In Paraguay, Children’s Day is in connection with the anniversary of the infamous Battle of Acosta Nu on 16 August, 1869 where the army of 20,000 men crush an army of 3,500 children ages 6 through 15 who were fighting a battle already lost. It is a national holiday to commemorate the atrocities that were committed by the Brazilians during the five-year war. While the children can visit the zoo for free on their special day in Slovakia, they are treated like kings in Thailand, where a theme is created by the government and children can tour all aspects of the Thai regime and other institutions. And yes, they can use the public transport and visit the zoos and other places for free as well.
While the churches in the USA honor their children during a Sunday church service- as agreed upon through first the Universalist Convention in Baltimore in 1867 and later through the proclamation by now former President George W. Bush- in Germany, children usually receive presents from their families and schools and kindergartens arrange for field trips and other events to make their day special. After all, the children are the future and efforts are being made to encourage families to have children. This includes many states providing funding for parents who take maternity leave for up to three years, as well as for constructing kindergartens, renovating schools and hiring teachers. Even companies are constructing kindergartens and encouraging their workers to work and take care of their children, a mentality that is for the most part unthinkable in other places, like the US and the UK.

There is a reason for that, which is the fact that Germany, like many countries in western Europe is on the decline in terms of population. At the moment, the population is at 79 million, down from 82.3 million in 2000. The causes of such a decline are emigration to other countries, the population is aging, and lastly, the working conditions which discourages people from creating families. Henceforth beginning in 2005, the government and the private sector began taking a proactive stance and created measures to encourage people to have children. In the seven years since the initiative was started, we have seen a moderate increase in the population but only in areas where the job prospects are at their highest- in technology areas, like Jena, Dresden and Frankfurt, as well as in large cities in the northern parts of the country, including Berlin, Hamburg and other areas. Even big cities like Nuremberg and Munich are seeing population growth as a result of these measures. Whether this will offset the population decline remains to be seen, but Germany is taking steps in the right direction to replenish the population.

Regardless of the reasons for having children, we should take advantage of Children’s Day and look at our young ones for who they are, treat them like king and help them along the way. After all, we are the ones responsible for our children’s future and the children are the ones who are leading the way to one that will be better than what we have at the moment. I would like to close this entry with a Thai saying that states: “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.”  We have taken many steps to foster the children’s development. We should enjoy the day and take pride in the next generation that will lead the way after we are gone. Enjoy this day, everyone.