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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A German railway company which has introduced women-only compartments on one line said on Thursday the move was not a reaction to the New Year sex attacks in Cologne and other cities but a response to customer requests made earlier in December.
Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn set aside compartments for women, children and the elderly on trains operating between Leipzig and Chemnitz in eastern Germany last week, with two compartments for the use of women and children only.
"Some women wanted to have a little bit more security," a Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Germany.
He said the compartments were in the middle carriage of the train, near the train conductor's compartment.
More than 600 women in several cities across Germany filed complaints ranging from sexual molestation to theft after attacks during the New Year weekend, and police investigations were focused on illegal migrants from North Africa and asylum seekers.
The Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn spokesman said the company had received requests for dedicated compartments before the attacks took place, and such compartments had only been set aside on one line which did not have open carriages where all passengers sit together.
Cities in several countries have brought in "women only" train carriages, buses and taxis in a bid to stem sexual harassment.
The world's largest capital, Tokyo, was one of the first to introduce women-only carriages on trains, in 2000. Mexico City, Jakarta and others followed suit, and some are mulling the idea.
A 2014 Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of 15 of the world's largest capitals plus New York found 70 percent of women questioned felt safer on single-sex transport.
Gender experts expressed concern over its effectiveness, saying it was a short-term fix, not a way of stopping the harassment of women.
Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org