New in China: 'Wolf-blocking' subway platforms planned in Wuhan
They're known as "color wolves" (色狼) -- perverts who stalk the subways of China, combing the peak-hour crowds for vulnerable women to grope.
But in an attempt to thwart the wolf pack, Wuhan subway authority is planning to roll out women-only platforms in every station on Metro Line 2 to combat sexual harassment, according to state-run Wenhui Daily (in simplified Chinese only).
This will be the first subway service aimed at protecting and benefiting women in mainland China.
Women-only platforms, but not carriages
Wuhan's Metro Line 2 is in the final stage of construction. Its first phase, which cost more than RMB 20 billion (US$3.2 billion), is due to start running by the end of 2012. It will link 21 stations over 28 kilometers.
According to the plan, only female passengers will be allowed to wait on the platform next to where the first and second carriages halt during operating hours (7 a.m.-9 p.m.).
The "wolf-blocking area," as Chinese netizens call it, will be highlighted with special signs.
But the subway trains won't contain women-only carriages and all the carriages are connected to each other.
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Wuhan Metro Line 2 is the first underground subway for the sprawling capital of Hubei Province in central China -- Wuhan Metro Line 1 is an elevated railway. Line 2 will cross the Yangtze River.
According to an online survey of 9,000 participants, nearly 65 percent of the respondents support Wuhan subway's scheme because "it protects women’s rights well." About 20 percent opposed to the idea, saying that "this increases the management cost."
Some Chinese male netizens though regard the approach "unfair and sexist."
"I have no issue against setting up women-only carriages, but can we also have male-only areas? Are women the only group who will be sexually harassed?" netizen Mou Nan Shu Li (某男舒立) posted on Sina Weibo.
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Subways in Chinese cities are usually overcrowded during peak hours.
More than 80 percent of Chinese believe sexual harassment exists on China's subways; 13.6 percent said they have personally encountered sexual harassment and 23.8 percent would like to see women-only carriages or platforms, according to an online survey of 9,617 participants conducted by China Youth Daily last month .