You're out for the evening, it's getting late and you start planning how to get home. Have you ever found yourself hesitating about taking public transport because of the potential risks? Or perhaps it's your friend, who has more than one change to make, that you're concerned for and see home in a taxi? The sad truth is, that if you are female, you have most likely questioned taking public transport home late at night.
A recent study in France, conducted by the High Counsel for Equality between Women and Men (HCEfh), questioned women using public transport in the Parisian suburbs of Saint-Denis and Essonne as to whether they had experienced sexual harassment on their travels. The answer was a resounding 100% "yes". Perhaps more shockingly, women had to have examples of sexual misconduct defined for them, showing that it is a behaviour that many many women have become conditioned to. Additionally it is something we all potentially have to put up with on a daily basis.
A similar conversation is currently in the newspapers on the other side of the Channel Tunnel, as Jeremy Corbyn drew attention last week to the idea for women only tube carriages (at night), in an attempt to deal with the increasing problem of sexual harassment in public places. Whilst I find it to only be a positive thing that the problem is being acknowledged and spoken about, in regards to women only carriages I find myself agreeing with Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project. It feels like a step backwards, that we accept men may harass us in public therefore we segregate ourselves from them.
I think the main problem with identifying sexual harassment on public transport is that it is so often fleeting or subtle. A wolf whistle, a male crotch pressing tightly up against the back of you on a crowded train, an arm around your waist as someone exits the metro. The last two have happened to me on several occasions since living here. A lot of men refuse to acknowledge the problem, or recognise that for women, this sort of behaviour is intimidating, degrading and offensive.
So, how has the French government responded to the problem? Well there is no talk of women-only carriages which I am relieved about. The Transport Minister, Alain Vidalies, along with Pascale Boistard, Minister for Women's Rights have introduced 12 measures that attempt to tackle the problem. Some of these include a poster campaign to underline the legal implications of sexual harassment, staff training to deal with these incidents, improving bad lighting and CCTV in metro stations and a test scheme whereby bus passengers can request stops close to home when travelling late at night.
You can follow along by searching the #takebackthemetro hashtag on Twitter: it is a little disheartening but the website has expired and I am trying to find out who to email about that. In the meantime, I would encourage you to talk to someone you trust should you experience sexual harassment on the metro. I believe that part of the solution is educating those who don't acknowledge the problem for what it really is. Let our voices be heard: we not only do this for ourselves but for every woman out there.