On students’ way to Sookmyung Women’s dormitory, there is a conspicuous blue road. Have you ever seen this sparkling blue road? You will see sparkling blue blocks along the road. This special blue road’s name is ‘Women’s Safety Road.’ Because of the road, Sookmyung Women’s University students can return home safely. For such similar reasons, these days, there are many services and facilities aimed at women’s safety. Also, we can make use of these services and facilities in our everyday lives. People call these services ‘Only for Women.’
Drawing with a Pink Colored Pencil
We can easily see ‘Women-only Institutions’ near Sookmyung Women’s University. These include pensions and residency rooms. They prohibit men admissions, so there are signs on the doors that read, “Men May Not Enter.” Jeon Hyewon, Business Administration ’13 said, “I live in a pension near school that is only for women. I choose to live here because if I were to encounter men in the building, I would feel uncomfortable. The closed-circuit television records my every step, so I feel safe.” Because these places are only for women, students who live in these pensions are satisfied with the comfort and safe living. When we go to whole sale markets and department stores, we can see parking lots only for women. These parking lots are marked with pink lines. The police analyzed places of sexual crime and found that a great number of sexual crimes occurred in underground parking lots (17.9%) during the last three years.1 Experts point out the distinctiveness of underground parking lots, so there are now parking lots for women. These facilities separate women from men, so women can feel more secure when they walk.
Also, there are many services only for women. These days, women are entering public affair positions so many services for women only have begun to emerge. Blue Me is a car checking service for women from Hyundai Motor Company. It’s a combination Hyundai’s symbolical color blue and the Chinese character 美 which means ‘beautiful.’ These days, there are many women drivers, so Hyundai offers one-stop car consultation for women who don’t have enough information about their cars. Above this, there are credit cards, apartments, and fitness clubs only for women. They have emerged because of women’s remarkable consumption growth tendency and advancement in society. Women purchasing entities are increasing and many companies now make services and utilities only for women.
Missing Pink Project
Although there are many facilities only for women, doubt still exists whether they are really safe for women. ‘Only for women,’ this is a little bit worrisome since the facilities are only for women, the places naturally attract crime. According to the National Statistical Office, unmarried women who live alone in Seoul alone have increased from 26 million households to 45 million households. Because of this situation, crimes against women have increased, especially among unmarried women living alone. Also, according to one research from the Seoul Foundation of Women & Family, 12.6% of 357 women aged 20~40 years old and living alone in Seoul have experienced a crime.2 Especially, women students who live alone near schools are at risk. Yeon Hyojeong, Department of Mathematics ’13 said, “I lived in a boarding house near the school that was only for women. At night a drunken man broke into my boarding house, so I moved immediately.” Facility owners claim to have installed CCTV recording and safety devices, but there is room to question this. Are they really operating and are the owners checking the devices regularly. If they are not, women residents are being exposed to danger.
Effectiveness of these ‘Only for Women’ places is also on the rise. In Korea, there were subways and taxies only for women at one time, but the services didn’t operate properly. In 2009, Seoul imposed the ‘Pink Taxi’ which had women drivers, and were reserved for women passengers. Sadly, utilization of the service was so low that it was abolished. In addition, the number of women taxi drivers was only 800, so it was far sufficient. In view of taxi distribution, it had difficulty due to the lack of women taxi drivers. Subway trains only for women were also tried in the past, but overcrowding during rush hour put pressure on Seoul, so it was too abolished. There are many difficulties when governments dispense women-only services and policies. For example, Daegu Urban Railway Corporation commented, “There are many operation problems, for instance, what if men linger on women-only subway trains. How will it be dealt with and so on.”3 These women-only services cannot successfully operate without legislation and detailed policy planning.
Next, nonessential expansion of ‘women-only’ facilities, services, and policies lower the status of women. Some may interpret them as needed and essential because women are the weak sex and need protection. Hence, many women also disapprove some policies like women-only subway trains. Women organizations express opposing opinion about the policy saying, “It can twist the perception of women that they can be treated like targets of sexual assault. Especially, it can cause deeper distrust between women and men.”4 These days, there are too many women-only facilities like women-only bicycle parking lots and women-only seats on the bus, despite allotments of seats already for pregnant women. Nonessential expansion of women facilities and services just acknowledge women as targets of sexual crimes and make women need isolation for safety.
Subject of Controversy: Women-Only Subway Lines
Many women-only facilities were first started with the establishment of the women-only subway trains. In 2008, the public was divided on its opinion of women-only subway lines. The Seoul Urban Railway Corporation surveyed the effectiveness of women-only subway trains and reverse discrimination. According to survey results, women were opposed to the idea of having women-only trains. However, there are still people that feel women-only subway lines could protect women from sexual crimes. The first women-only subway line was opened in Japan. Women lost the fear of sexual crimes, and men were no longer misunderstood to be molesters. Regrettably, on the regular subway trains and at transfer stations, sexual assault still occurred. As a result, in Japan the controversy about the efficiency of woman-only subway was raised. Similar matter was also raised in other countries. Moreover, there was a case in which a woman accused a man of being a molester, but he was never proven guilty. The result was that people felt the need for men-only subway lines along with women-only lines in Japan.
Many countries are planning to operate women-only facilities and some nations are presently implementing women-only subway lines. Before establishing these facilities and policies, the nations are investigating needs. Although Korea is implementing a women-only policy at the moment, other nations are discussing enforcement over the long-term. Most of these nations have established criteria that deal with new policy enforcement and tactics to rectify potential mistakes.
Pink, Harmony with Other Colors
Before introducing women-only policies, the problem is ‘Effectiveness’ and ‘Durability.’ Government women-only policies and services are just for show at the moment and only highlight the government’s endeavor to protect women from sexual crimes. Like the Pink Taxi that fell out of user due to low utilization, these policies can’t be practical alternatives for women’s safety.
The intention of these policies is good; they aim to protect women from sexual crimes. However, we should implement these policies with a long-term planning vision and correct mistakes continuously. Lee Sunmi, activist of Korea Women Link and Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center said, “We have had no assurance that the police will accompany all women’s return to their homes. It is important that the government sets into motion a plan based on long-term perspectives. Also, it is important to distribute finite resources and human resources.”5
Like the proceeding, nonessential expansion concerning ‘women-only’ facilities, services, and policies lower women. For women safety, women-only policies and facilities are helpful, but women-only thoughtless expansion regards women as the weaker sex. Polices that do not help women are not needed and unessential. We need to think about how to substantially help women.
1 Bae Inook, "Underground Parking Lot is Hot Bed in Crime," Newsis, June 13, 2009
2 Lee Hoyeon, "Only for Women Places are Targeting for the Crime," Moonwha-ilbo, April 17,2013
3 Goo Daesun, "Controversy about Installation Women Only Subway," Hangyerae, January 16,2013
4 Digital News Team, "Seoul Subway's New Policy, Women Only Subway," Hankyung, March 7,2008
5 Hwang Boram, "Litmits of Polices Just for Showing," Moneytoday, June 12,2013