Women-only taxi service to launch in Cairo

Women-only taxi service to launch in Cairo
Feature: The Pink Taxi service, operated by women for women, is set to launch in Cairo to combat sexual harassment. It has won many supporters - and a few critics.
3 min read
17 June, 2015
Women-only taxis have been operating for several years in Dubai [Getty]
A new taxi service run by female drivers and catering exclusively to female passengers, is expected to hit the streets of Cairo soon, offering a solution to the sexual harassment Egyptian women face on a daily basis.

"We are currently working on receiving the necessary permits and preparing cars to start operating as soon as possible", Pink Taxi Egypt (PTE) founders said last week on their Facebook page.

"Our cars will be convenient and safe for female passengers... and will be easily identifiable," the statement said. "Each car will have a specific code for more safety and reassurance."

The service aims to offer women in Cairo a safe and convenient alternative to the male-dominated independent white cabs, which subjects them to possible risks of sexual harassment and rape, especially late at night.

The blight of sexual harassment

In 2013, a UN report titled said that 99.3 percent of women in Egypt had been subjected to one form or another of sexual harassment.

On social media, many women supported and encouraged the idea of a women-only cab service. Dozens of comments on the PTE Facebook page asked about the new service and whether it was available for other vulnerable passengers.

"What about elderly male passengers? Are they allowed to use this service?" one woman asked.

Others made suggestions to improve the service. "Maybe the taxis should not be completely pink so that other drivers wouldn't harass the driver and the customer, considering the sick mentality we are surrounded with. When they see a pink taxi they will know it is all females in it and may start to bother them," wrote Mai el-Kamah.

Male white cab drivers also did not seem to mind the idea, particularly as it would be run by female drivers. One of them told the Egyptian Masr al-Arabia TV channel: "Why not? Women have already entered many other fields of work, and there are already female cab drivers in Egypt. It is not a bad idea."

The idea of women cab drivers in itself is not new. There have been a few examples in Egypt over the past decade in particular catering for all sorts of passengers, not only women.

In 2014, Nour Gaber, one of Egypt’s few female cab drivers, decided to set up an academy to train other women.

But others have criticised the women-only cab service for promoting gender segregation and undermining hard-won strides in gender equality and women’s rights, instead of addressing the root causes of the problem, the sexual harassment that caused women to opt for such services in the first place.

A step forward for sexual equality?

Why not? Women have entered many other fields of work, and there are already female cab drivers in Egypt. It is not a bad idea.
-Male taxi driver.

When the idea of gender-segregated cab services first emerged among private taxi companies in 2010, Nihad Abul Komsan, the head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) and a well-known women's rights advocate in Egypt, told Deutsche Welle that the idea of women's cabs was a "setback" for social and legal equality.

"It promotes women's isolation through a 'women only' parallel society, such as the case with segregated metro cars, beaches, and cafes," she said.

ECWR also issued a statement against the idea, describing it as a "naive attempt to solve a problem that will in turn have dangerous effects on social and security problems."

Others criticised the new PTE service on social media. "I see segregation is not the right solution for harassment issue," Kareem Hafez said on Twitter.

"Pink Taxi is a stupid sexist idea. Harassment can be solved by applying the law, not by a Pink Taxi, you idiots!" Lamia Sherif tweeted.

The new service will not be the first of its kind in the Middle East. There have been similar successful initiatives in Tehran, Dubai and Beirut.