"Do I have to carry my maternity notes with me all the time?” When a stranger told Raayan Zafar she could not sit on the Tube unless she proved she was pregnant, that was her reaction. The 32-year-old mother of one (and soon-to-be mother of two) was riding the train in the Stockwell district of London when she encountered this angry commuter. She was wearing a "baby on board" badge, which pregnant passengers wear on the London Underground to designate that they deserve priority seating, but apparently, that wasn't enough.
When Zafar first requested the seat from another man, he stood up to vacate it for her, Evening Standard reports. But when another woman went for the seat and Zafar said "excuse me" to guard it for herself, the man next to the seat piped up. "Where is the baby?" she said he told her.
Zafar in fact wasn't visibly pregnant, but she was experiencing side effects that made it painful for her to stand on the train. “It was a long commute and I suffer from severe morning sickness — I’m on medication already," she told Evening Standard."I feel dizzy and out of energy, which makes standing in the Tube quite difficult when there is not enough ventilation.” She added: “I see a lot of pregnant ladies on the Tube in rush hour and I don’t see that people are more considerate towards them.”
Zafar is right that she's not the only one. In September, a man occupied the seat of 34-week-pregnant Mhairi-Claire Doolan on a train from Birmingham to Manchester and refused to let her sit even after she showed him her ticket. And London writer Hilary Freeman wrote in The Daily Mail that people often looked down at their gadgets instead of giving her their seats on the Tube when she was pregnant. This isn't just happening in the U.K., though; American writer Chaunie Brusie wrote that a man rushed in front of her for a bus seat while she was pregnant on her honeymoon in the Bahamas, forcing her to stand. And being pregnant on the New York City subway taught Jessica Grose that "these ungallant commuters are perfectly happy to ignore gestating ladies hovering over them while they beat that 97th level of Candy Crush."
Nobody's arguing that all women should receive empty seats by default, but there are many reasons to give up seats for pregnant people in particular. “I think we need to educate people more about this. People know about disabled people and they are more considerate because they can see it, whereas with a pregnancy they can’t see it at a certain time so they think everything is fine," Zafar told Evening Standard. People with disabilities don't always get the accommodations they deserve either, however. Some invisible disabilities and illnesses debilitate people without others knowing, and they don't get to wear any badge.
It seems like the best policy is just to believe people when they say they need priority seating. They're unlikely to be making it up, and we could save them a lot of discomfort. Plus, the rest of us could use the health benefits of standing, so it's really a win-win.