Green light for equality? 'Female' traffic lights spark debate in Australia

Traffic lights with women figures in Melbourne get mixed reactions.
Traffic lights with women figures in Melbourne get mixed reactions.SCREENGRAB: YOUTUBE

Authorities in an Australian city have installed 10 traffic lights with figures in dresses just in time for International Women's Day which falls on March 8, but the move has sparked a debate with critics saying they are unnecessary.

The trial programme in Melbourne is designed to "reduce unconscious bias", according to the lobby group behind them, BBC reported.

The Committee For Melbourne, which began the Equal Crossing initiative, said it hopes that half the lights in the city can depict women.

"Although seemingly innocuous, this symbolic disparity contributes to an ongoing unconscious gender bias in society that women are less equal than men," said a tweet on the Equalcrossings Twitter feed, referring to the exclusive use of male figures in traffic lights.

"Such bias helps to build and reinforce stereotypes and ultimately influences the daily decisions that we all make."

But critics said that the move was unnecessary. Some said it was a pointless gesture, some joked that they had assumed the red and green figures were women wearing pants, others were concerned about the cost for the change.

Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle described the scheme as "a costly exercise" that is "more likely to bring derision", according to 7 News.

Some asked if the city would also need traffic light figures in wheelchairs or bigger ones to represent the overweight.

Melbourne is not the only city to feature women at its pedestrian crossings.

New Zealand celebrated being the first country to give women the vote by installing a silhouette of the suffragette Kate Sheppard at eight pedestrian crossings in the capital city Wellington in 2014, the Guardian reported.