Women-only compartments on Ukrainian trains

An overnight train leaves kyiv for Uzgorod in western Ukraine. Anastasia, who is traveling with her 7 and 10 year old daughters, is calm because she knows that she isHer compartment is for women only, a decision to tighten security in times of war.

The Ukrainian railway company Ukrzaliznytsia, put the first compartments reserved for women on night trains in service on Fridayto reinforce the safety of its passengers.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the ukrainian railway plays a vital role in the evacuation of civilians from conflict-affected areasthe transport of troops and the transit of goods.

Many women are traveling alone across the country as many men are on the front lines.

“I chose this option because I am traveling alone with my two daughters for the first time”, Anastasia explains. “I was anxious, but I saw that it was possible to travel in women-only compartments,” she continues.

For her, it is as much a matter of safety as comfort. “You can change, sleep at night. It’s a closed space and it’s not very nice to be with men”precise.

This offer currently covers four night trains, two of which depart from the capital kyiv.

The measure was announced by the railways following an electronic petition posted in mid-May on the government website that collected more than 25,000 signatures.

The text called for “at least one carriage” to be reserved for women on all trains whose routes exceed six hours of travel, mentioning the cases “not isolated” from “harassment” and “deliberate groping”or even those of “wagon rapes”.

Olena Viacheslavivna, 60, thinks it is “very nice” to have the opportunity to choose between the three non-mixed compartments of the train leaving Kiev.

– Pleasure of traveling –

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“From the first minute I felt that I had good neighbors and that it would be a pleasure to travel. I am very happy to be here,” says the woman, a sixty-year-old.

Tatiana, 26, also feels “more comfortable among women.

“Even more when I travel alone. I’m sure no one will harass me. I feel much more comfortable, even morally,” she explains.

Oxana, 22, sees this proposal as positive, but would have preferred one carriage to be entirely reserved for women, with a real separation, and not a few compartments in the middle of others, “to keep men from constantly passing by.”

At the same time, she points out that the male presence can be useful in some situations.

“If a drunk man walks in, as I’ve seen happen on other trips, another man in the next compartment can walk up and say something to him,” he explains.

Depending on its success, the principle of places reserved for women could be extended, according to the company Ukrzaliznytsia, which had already tried to launch the idea in 2010 before giving it up due to lack of demand.

He also announced other measures, such as more armed patrols on the trains, surveillance cameras in the carriages, emergency buttons in the compartments and alarms on their doors.

The request for reserved compartments sparked an intense debate on social media. Many women spoke in favor, but some men denounced a way of “segregation” or complained of being considered by default as potential aggressors.

On the platform of the kyiv station, Andriy has just joined his mother, wife and daughter on another train.

Questioned about the proposal, he judges the idea as “positive”, but advocates that there are also compartments reserved exclusively for men.

“So we could play chess”, he says smiling.

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