A company starting a new women-only bus service has stoked controversy, with critics contending that the services represent sexual discrimination against men.
The new “woman only” bus service operates in the Okinawa town of Tomigusuku, and as its name suggests, men are not allowed to board the pink buses.
The buses are decorated with flowers and have pink curtains, whilst the driver is of course a woman.
Boys of no more than elementary school age are allowed to accompany their mothers on the bus, and women requiring attendance are allowed to bring male helpers on board. Otherwise men are banned from alighting.
Just as on women-only carriages, the bus service runs under capacity – reportedly one bus seats around 28, but typically only 20 seats will be filled. Meanwhile, normal services which men are allowed to use are usually full.
Due to its size and geography, Okinawa itself has no rail network, and is thus completely reliant on buses.
This is not the first such service in Japan – reportedly a similar women-only service in the northern wastes of Hokkaido has run since 2003, and a number of inter-city coach services offer women-only passage (variously pictured).
In such cases operating companies claim they take care to arrange schedules so that men are not left waiting at the bus stop after female customers are allowed to board their buses – particular concerns given the frigid conditions in winter Hokkaido and the severe summer heat and ferocious typhoons in Okinawa.
Japanese buses do not suffer the chikan problems associated with the nation’s overcrowded trains – operators report that “customer preference” is the reason for running such services, without citing any specific concerns.
Japan is the only developed nation to widely operate such gender-segregated services, and most of the countries which do operate them are backwards religious nations.
Naturally, the introduction of even more discriminatory transport services has not passed without comment – the “Campaign Against Women-Only Carriages,” a group formed to oppose the trend, asserts that the bus services constitute illegal discrimination against men:
“According to the laws governing bus services on public roads, operators cannot deny people service according to sex. Based on the notion that ‘Most chikan may be men, but most men are not chikan,’ we wish to protest these moves.”