The female-only car park problem

FEBRUARY 5 ― The problem with female-only parking zones at shopping centres is that not all of them are well-guarded, not so much that men try to break the rules and park there (although that’s rather annoying too).

Peter Cheng was heavily criticised on social media when he complained about a security guard at KLCC who tried to prevent him and his wife from parking at the women’s zone. The backlash was so bad that memes were created, including the “Be Like Bill” meme, or in this case, “Don’t be like Peter”.

Female-only parking zones were created to address the problem of snatch theft and assault at shopping centres where women are the primary targets. There doesn’t seem to be any official statistics revealing the gender breakdown of robbery victims at malls, but a Google search shows that most, if not all, of snatch theft cases at shopping centres in Malaysia involve female victims.

There’s also the high-profile 2003 case of Canny Ong, a young woman who was abducted from the parking lot of a shopping centre in Bangsar and later raped and murdered.

Given that robbery crimes at malls disproportionately target women, it’s only fair (and economically sensible) to create solutions that prioritise women’s safety.

However, it’s not enough for shopping centres to just designate certain areas in the parking lot as a women's zone without providing a heavy security presence. That will only jeopardise women’s safety even more as criminals will know where to lurk.

The best solution, of course, is to properly secure the entire parking lot so that both women and men are equally protected. But if that’s not financially feasible, then the next best step is to guard the women-only parking zones.

Although a certain shopping centre in Petaling Jaya has all sorts of “special zones” in its parking lot, including designated bays for women with children, solo women drivers, and carpool drivers, among others, there aren’t always security guards to ensure that drivers follow these rules.

But another shopping centre in the Klang Valley has boom gates and security guards protecting the female-only zone. Once, when my male companion walked me to my car which was parked in the women’s zone (I drove alone to the mall), a guard yelled at him and told him to get out.

I wasn’t angry. At least they were doing their jobs.

Women-only parking zones, however, should be limited to lone female drivers. A group of women arguably faces less risk than even, say, an unaccompanied man walking to his car.

We need to put more pressure on shopping centres to increase security at parking lots. Creating a female-only zone without actual security is mere lip service.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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