Riding the Ladies Only Coach

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On the Malaysia monorail system there is a thing called a “ladies only coach” (Ini hoc Wanita. Wanita sahaja. in Malay). This is a designated coach within the train system that is for females only, but it is connected to the train like all of the other coaches. As soon as I entered I found a group of Malaysian women that had just got on the Batu Caves stop with me, Bonny, and Abby. Some of the women were wearing hijabs, tshirts and jean skirts, and some were dressed in tshirts and pants with no hijab. I don’t know if they were using the coach because it was only for women, or because it was the first empty coach that could hold their large group.

I will speculate that they used the coach more out of convenience than preference because as the train was waiting at the stop for over 10 minutes, many travelers passed through the coach, both male and female. No one said anything to the males that passed through, nor to those that either did not understand which coach they were on or just ignored the rule and ended up sitting in the ladies only section.

The males that I saw sitting in the ladies section seemed to be either foreign (one guy with blonde hair asked me where the train was headed and proceeded to sit just a few seats away), or young (a young boy, maybe 10 years old, with his mother), or with other girl friends (a guy with two girls, who I think were speaking Malay). The last case of a guy with two of his girl friends showed me that either the signs were not clear enough or that this small group didn’t care. I think it was a combination because as the group got on they kind of looked around at the bright pink signs, appearing a bit confused, then ultimately just sat down in the “ladies only coach.”

In an ad for the KTM komuter (the commuter train we were on) it displayed the new feature of the “ladies only coach”. It demonstrated that men were not even to enter or pass through the ladies coach by showing a young woman getting off the train and, as a distracted young man went to get on the ladies coach, she kindly pointed him in the direction of the next coach.

Both this ad and my experience demonstrated that the women on the train must enforce the idea of a “ladies only coach”, not an external enforcer such as the police (polis in Malay). Better signage or the threat of a fine (such as the 30 ringgit fine for losing your train ticket before getting off) would probably increase the compliance levels of men to stay away from the “ladies only coach.”

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