Thanks to a tip from the City Fix, we learned that Mexico City's buses are the next test tube in ongoing experiments involving "separate but equal" transit. As reported by Reuters, the capital city, which already has female-only subway cars, has now created single-sex buses in response to complaints that the city's notoriously crowded public transport has become a gropers paradise.
Of course, Mexico isn't the only place to embrace the concept of a female-only ride. Japan, in response to widespread complaints of "chikan-ery," introduced the idea of women-only subways cars in 2001 and, since then, a number of countries, including India, Thailand, Egypt and Brazil, have begun running some version of a mobile boys-keep-out clubhouse. South Korea has announced plans to designate some subway cars as single sex in 2008.
As much as I can see the appeal -- especially if you've just endured being groped on a public bus -- the idea of renewing segregation for the protection of women makes me queasy. After all, how can such single-sex band-aids treat the deeper disease of sexual harassment and assault? What about when women step off the bus or train -- where's their protection then? As Cida Diogo, president of Brazil's Commission on the Defense of Women's Rights, told Women's eNews last year after Rio de Janeiro introduced its pink-labeled streetcars, single-sex transit laws offer a "false sense of security." In the same article, Rogeria Peixinho, director of EQUIT Institute -- Global Gender, Economy and Citizenship, told eNews that any segregation is unconstitutional, that it would only aggravate problems of gender inequality, reawakening the war between the sexes.
On the other (groping) hand, I'm an unabashed hypocrite. I may agree that institutionalized segregation is inherently wrong, but so is standing on a crowded curb in a society where many men feel your body is there for the feeling. Given the choice between two buses -- one filled with women and another packed with humanity in all its diversity -- I'd be the first to take a ride on the XX Express.