Women abreast of rights on subway

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON - Another milestone has been reached in the fight for equality between the sexes: henceforth women may travel topless on New York's subway as long as they don't smoke cigarettes, beg for money or chew gum, writes Rupert Cornwell.

The decision followed consultations between lawyers for the city's Transit Authority and the Manhattan district attorney, after some women this summer took to the subway bare-breasted to test a court ruling that arresting topless females is discriminatory. And, these legal powerhouses have concluded, it is.

'From the waist up, I've always recognised the fact that men and women are different,' said the Transit Police chief, Michael O'Connor, 'but it doesn't seem like the courts do.' Nor is Mayor Giuliani best pleased. A spokesman described the controversy as a 'quality-of-life' issue. 'I don't think most New Yorkers want to be cheek-by-jowl with half-naked people on the subway in the rush-hour.'

In fact that prospect is remote. Not that the ladies of New York are bashful. Rather, as a member of the National Organisation For Women, which fought the original battle, observed: 'We have enough trouble already getting through the subway with our clothes on.'