At a time when using public transportation can instill fear in a woman, cab companies from India to New York City are providing safer options for travel. Meru Cab chief executive Siddhartha Pahwa launched a new initiative called Meru Eve at the start of 2015. Meru Eve is a line of taxis in Delhi to be driven by women. These female drivers will be armed with pepper spray and have panic buttons that will notify Meru if the drivers find themselves in a dangerous position. Delhi’s Special Commissioner of Police Vimla Mehra told The Wall Street Journal, “You don’t see many women professionals in India. Programs like this build confidence in women to earn a living. They become role models.”
However, some worry that programs like this only work to segregate women from the rest of society instead of solving the actual issues of gender equality. Jayati Ghosh, a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told The Washington Post, “It’s appalling. It’s a way for a patriarchal society to announce it’s not going to protect women. It’s simply going to segregate women and restrict their freedom, instead of securing it.” However, 20-year-old Aishwarrya Kapoor defended the use of female cabs in the same article saying, “Because in India, even though we are in the 21st century, with any [male] cab driver, it’s not really safe.”
This kind of business has been capitalized on in the West as well. SheTaxis was launched in the fall of 2014 in New York City and employs only female drivers to transport only female customers. One of the drivers of SheTaxis, Josephina Soto, told The New York Times, “I love the whole SheTaxis thing. Most of the time, there’s a lot of men-to-men stuff, but it’s not usually about the women.”
With sexual harassment and rape reports continuing to pile up against taxi services, including a case against the ridesharing company Uber in Delhi, this kind of service offers a level of comfort to female passengers and empowers female drivers by giving them a job that they can feel safe and confident in.