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Labour infighting broke out today as a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn was accused of taking “feminist cues from Saudi Arabia” for suggesting women-only train carriages.
Frontbencher Chris Williamson’s proposal that separate travelling arrangements for women should be considered to combat sexual assault has sparked outcry among members of his own party.
Jess Phillips blasted his suggestion for sending out the wrong message, while Stella Creasy said the move would “normalise” attacks.
Ms Phillips, a member of the Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee, posted on Twitter: “Absolutely terrible idea. It is essentially giving up on trying to prosecute assaults. If you take your feminist cues from Saudi Arabia you’ve gone wrong.”
Shadow fire minister Mr Williamson said separate carriages might offer “a safe space” for women as sexual offences on trains have more than doubled in the past five years.
Some 1,448 offences were reported in 2016/17, compared with 650 incidents in 2012/2013, British Transport Police figures show.
The idea was initially suggested by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during his 2015 leadership bid, but the plans were dropped after attracting criticism from prominent Labour MPs such as Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
Derby North MP Mr Williamson told PoliticsHome: “It would be worth consulting about it. It was pooh-poohed [when Jeremy Corbyn suggested it], but these statistics seem to indicate there is some merit in examining that.”
Ms Creasy, MP for Walthamstow and a women’s rights campaigner, argued that women should be safe to sit anywhere. She tweeted: “Can we make all carriages safe for all passengers rather than restricting where we can go? It’s not us, it’s them, honest …”
She added: “Doesn’t keep women safe to restrict their movements — it normalises attacks. We need to be clear they [the attackers] are problem, not women’s seating plans.”
Mr Williamson replied: “I didn’t suggest imposing restrictions, Stella, merely consulting on offering a choice in view of the statistics showing increased attacks.”
He also added that he wanted more guards on trains and it was a “mere suggestion” that passengers might like the choice of additional carriages.
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