Only months after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the subject of controversy after suggesting Britain consider women-only carriages on trains, a German rail operator has announced it is launching the service after a series of violent sex attacks in the country.
Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn will introduce the new carriage on the Leipzig to Chemnitz line. Boys up to the age of 10 will also be allowed in the carriages, but once they hit 11 they will have to sit in the mixed compartments.
However, despite the widespread sex attacks over New Year's Eve in Cologne, the operator denied that the introduction of the women-only carriages had anything to do with the repeated assaults, with a spokesman saying: "The proposal for this came from passengers who want more privacy... It has nothing to do with sexual harassment."
While countries around the world, from Japan to India, have all adopted women-only modes of transport, the last time women-only compartments existed on UK trains was in 1977.
The announcement of the women-only carriages, which are designed to make female travellers feel safer on trains, kickstarted a debate on German social media, with the hashtag #imzugpassiert (it happened in a train) leading to women sharing examples of when they have felt personally harassed on trains.
Despite the operator's denial that the Cologne sex attacks had anything to do with the decision to segregate their trains, the attacks, in which violent gangs assaulted dozens of women during New Year's Eve in the city's main train station, some believe it was bound to have been in bosses' minds when they took the bold step, especially given that it is only days after the first suspect of the Cologne sex attacks was charged with a sex crime.
The carriages will be positioned next to the train conductor for added security, with a spokesman saying: “The local proximity to the customer service representative is chosen deliberately.”
When the idea was suggested in the UK, Conservative women’s minister Nicky Morgan said that women-only carriages missed the point.
“It seems to me not to tackle the issue, which is that women should feel safe and be free from harassment," she said. "It seems to say ‘let’s segregate people’ rather than tackling the issue.”