China Introduces Women Only Airport Security Lines

Filed Under: Security/TSA

In a rather interesting move, China’s Beijing Capital International Airport has added female-only security lines. This was made permanent after a three month trial, and has also been expanded to the airports in Shenzhen, Kunming and Wuhan.


Here’s the rationale, per The New York Times:

They are marked by bright pink signs that say “Female Only” in Chinese and English.

The government’s rationale is that women want to avoid being frisked by men. In the women’s lanes, the security guards are all women.

Women also carry bags of personal cosmetics that need to be opened and inspected, requiring greater scrutiny, one security guard told state media. The implication is that they are slowing down other (male) travelers with less fussy baggage.

Supposedly the addition of this new line has “improved efficiency” by 25%, and the women only line is 10% more efficient than the other security line.

The solution China came up with is an interesting one. If you are subjected to additional screening in the US, you’ll always be patted down by someone the same gender as you, which seems like another possible solution to women getting groped by male security officers in China. As far as I know, in the general line a woman could receive a pat down from a guy.

Furthermore, I can see how there’s added efficiency if cosmetics issues are more consistently dealt with in one security channel (as mildly sexist as that sounds).

Presumably women can still choose to use the other line. If it makes things more efficient for everyone, then I’m all for it.

I’m sure some people will have serious issues with this, though. I’m guessing there’s a large overlap between people who believe that, and people who also believe there should be White History Month and a Straight Pride Parade. 😉

What do you make of the concept of women-only security checkpoints?

  1. not a bad idea but i’d like to see chinese airports enforce security lanes for premium/elite passengers.

  2. I dunno. I guess I get it, but where does it all end? LGBTQ lines? Trans lines?

    Oh, because women carry makeup. Men don’t carry product that needs to be inspected.

    And a bright pink sign. You know, because women get pink and men get clue. But if the sign for women is pink, what color will the gay line get? Purple I suppose.

  3. AVS is right. I recall whenever I departed from MAA and CCU, they had gender specific queues at security. The gender segregation didn’t really bother me, I cared more that security stamped the airline tags of my carry on bags!

  4. @ Neil S. — Would having a separate line for bisexuals somehow speed things up for all parties? If so, I’m all for it. But I fail to see how that would speed things up…

  5. In response to AVS – absolutely right! ALL Indian airports, even relatively small ones like IXE (Mangalore) have had separate security lines for women, forever. Very often, one can see smaller children getting into the women only line with their mothers.

  6. @Neil: Many countries such as India require frisk-search as a secondary but mandatory process for all following scanning by mm-wave/magnetic scanners. These procedures are especially warranted since women in Asia tend to wear more traditional clothing which does not lend well towards mm-wave scanning and since scanners are not as effective as thorough frisking (as proven by our TSA procedures).

  7. Really, more airports should have this. It’s not the screeners that are the problem (there have been female officers present every time I’ve gone through security in China), but male travelers who feel it’s appropriate to cut in front of women, shove their things out of the way, touch inappropriately while queuing, etc.

    The cosmetics thing is straight-up sexist, but if it helps female travelers feel more comfortable I’m all for it. Having a dedicated family lane during peak times would help too, so that parents traveling with young children (and all their gear) don’t feel as pressured to keep up with streamlined business travelers.

  8. @lucky – having security queues for us gays might speed things up though, given the number of times my friend has been inspected and had to explain why he had a ghd with him…

  9. I recall going through security check point in 1985 Ankara, the walk metal detector was not connected, and only pretty women were frisked. ( by male police)

  10. In my own experiences in airports in China, about few hundred times, I never seen any female passenger frisked by a male security officer. But a male passenger can get pat down by a female.

  11. Hope women have to pay slightly higher fees for this previliege to keep it fair for everyone.

  12. Common in some Middle Eastern airports too. Works well.
    In fact I wish Heathrow would implement this, since the last few times I’ve travelled through LHR there have always been more female security staff than male, meaning if one male passenger sets off the metal detector no other males can pass through.

  13. Seems like a reasonable enough idea given that there tends to be some fairly intimate frisking at airport security. That said, there always seems to be at least one (usually more) female agent at security at Chinese airports so female passengers could at least request a female agent to perform the check if they so wished, I’d predict.

    Maybe there is a policy in China that only female agents will frisk female passengers as Frank suggested above, so the special lanes may just be a way of streamlining the process.

  14. While it is true that in the US women are only frisked by female TSA agents, in my experience if I am pulled for secondary screening, they have to call over to another line to get a female agent to pat me down. I’ve even offered to let a male pat me down just to get through the line.
    Sounds like a women only line would eliminate this problem, and get people through the checkpoints quicker. (And no, I don’t carry cosmetics, just shampoo and conditioner in 100 ml bottles.)

  15. If the woman line is optional, I don’t see how it will speed things up for all passengers. You’ll still have slow women (with lots of “cosmetics” needing additional scanning) and you probably won’t have many female agents at the regular gates, thus causing backlogs when women need to be patted down.

    In theses cases, it’s very seldom win-win. You may very well get the situation whereby women only choose to use the women’s lane when the queue is shorter, thus still causing all the problems at the regular lanes, yet by dividing the staff both lanes move slower.

    If you’re going to divide it by gender, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a male lane and a female lane, that way you could at least allocate staff more appropriately across the lanes, and make it easier.

  16. This is the case in all airports, and any public place, in India. The only exceptions I can think of are places that are too small that they only have one security line.

  17. @ AVS: but in India the separate lines aren’t optional. You are required to go to your correct genders line which can backfire if there’s only 1 woman screener vs multiple men screeners. It also makes it difficult on families traveling with kids…

  18. @ Jack — Thanks for asking! The sexism comes from the set of assumptions underlying the “women and their cosmetics are slowing down the line” argument. Namely:

    1) If you have a uterus, you wear makeup
    2) Said makeup is disruptive to the screening process — more so than traditionally “male” products like shaving cream, or gender-neutral items like toothpaste or bottled water (which is what I generally see people throwing out at the checkpoint)
    3) Female travelers are less capable than males, and can’t be relied upon to follow the posted restrictions

    So removing women from the main queue “so as to improve efficiency, because cosmetics” — yeah, it’s sexist.

  19. This makes no sense at all.

    In China, male security has never been allowed to search females, not even with just the hand-held metal detector. So why female-only lines?

    On the other hand female security has always been allowed to search males. This is clear gender-discrimination and demonizes males.

    The common-sense, respectful way of doing security screening is to have females search only females and males search only males.
    The vast majority of the world operates this way.

  20. The author of this article did not research it very well.

    China does not allow male security to search females. But it does engage in gender discrimination by allowing female security to search males.

    It makes two offensive assumptions about males:
    1.) Like animals, ALL males are untrustworthy around females thus they can never search females.

    2.) Like animals, ALL males have no concern for dignity and privacy thus they won’t mind if a female searches their body.

    China makes these same assumptions in allowing female cleaners to walk into men’s toilets while men are using them but male cleaners cannot walk into women’s toilets

    If you’re an animal, these rules make sense. But if you’re a respectful human male (like most), you’ll find them to be very offensive.

    Shame on China, all people should be treated with the same equal dignity and respect no matter their gender.

  21. This is pure nonsense. In China males have never been allowed to physically search females.

    This is based on the offensive assumptions that all males are untrustworthy around females and all males have no concern for dignity or respect their Fort they won’t mind being searched by female. This is straight-up gender discrimination in China

  22. Whoever wrote this article has apparently never been in China. They stated that male security can frisk females. That is absolutely untrue. China practices gender discrimination against males only. Most airport security staff in China are females; they can search both females and males. But male security can only search males.

    This is because China assumes ALL males to be untrustworthy with no concern for dignity and privacy

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