Woman In Taxi

Women & The Pursuit of Safety: #Uber #DelhiShamedAgain

The incident of the 27 Years old woman raped last weekend by Uber driver says more about the safety of women in Delhi than their safety in cabs. This horrible episode reminded us once again of our extreme vulnerability in the public space. When reading the news I just wondered if there’s any place left out there where women don’t have to constantly fear for their safety.

Image Credit: mtlblog.com
Image Credit: mtlblog.com[/caption]

Sadly, instead of making it a point to discuss gender based violence, the rhetoric questioned the security of smartphone apps, and blamed cab providers for lacking scrupulous drivers’ background check.

While waiting for the civil society and authorities to initiate an honest conversation about violence against women, we can certainly analyse what can be done to improve the safety of women on the move.

We have identified three main concerns on safety associated with cab service providers:

  • The use of backup drivers which overpass all sorts of safety check.
  • The use of non-commercial vehicle/ non licensed Public Service Vehicle.
  • The lack of standalone GPS in the car.

Selling The Perception of Safety

It takes just a few minutes on the internet to notice that what cab service providers often sell is the perception of safety, rather than providing factual info on the safety measures adopted:

Ola Cab app is a quick method to book a taxi, but not the safest. The app features single-tap options that facilitate advance bookings, but GPS tracker is installed in the driver’s phone, which – as we learnt – can be switched off at any time.

TaxiForSure claims to be “the most reliable cab service in Delhi to ensure a safe and on-time travel to your destination”. Great. What does it exactly mean? They continue: “The drivers of our Delhi cabs are professionally trained and well behaved”. That’s good to know because who doesn’t like well behaved drivers?

Similarly to Ola and TaxiForSure, Uber cabs – unlike radio taxi fleet services – do not have mandatory GPS trackers. Instead they use smartphone apps which serve as GPS trackers of the vehicle.

Hello Cabs do not have any safety specification on their site.

Radio Taxis (such as Delhi Cab, Easy Cab, Quick Cabs, Meru Cabs, Mega cabs etc.) seem to be providing the safest service on the market, as they are fitted with standalone onboard GPS installed on the car for real time tracking of cab location. Also, the Meru mobile app comes with a Panic button for its users to notify their location to friends and family.

Although safer than other, radio taxi reliability are still questioned. Why are they not providing information on drivers screening standards, timing and prevention of backup drivers, or info on GPS functions (can it be switched off? Who monitors the location and how often? What happens if the cab goes off track or off the grid?)

Tips for Travelers

As I said, I find hard to believe there’s any place left for women to be totally safe from the risk of sexual violence. But here’s something we could do to minimize exposure:

  • Always make sure the vehicle is not a private car and is licensed for Commercial purposes.
  • Confirm the car number and cab driver name as shown in the app/SMS.
  • Ensure the Cab GPS enabled company phone is switched on and ask it to be always visible to you. Or just book cabs providing standalone onboard GSP tracker. This is not only used to track the speed of the car, but also used to know the whereabouts of the car, if its goes off the track.
  • Another valid option is booking cab services offering female chauffeurs. Sakha Consulting Wings, ForShe Cabs and GCabs provide this type of service.

Mobile Apps are not the problem. Rapists are

Although we all agree apps and cab providers have failed in protecting women, the ugly truth is that violence against women remains a problem simply because the civil society and authorities are diverting from the real issues. They’re too busy playing blaming games on the media to engage in an open discussion on the causes of violence against women.

Failing cabs management systems are indeed symptomatic of the issue, but certainly not the cause. Why are we so reluctant to address this epidemic of gender based violence?

Time has come for all of us to take responsibility for this plague upon our society and demand the authorities to take action in the prevention of violence against women, because unless we make it a point to discuss gender based violence, we would never be safe.