Alexandria, Egypt, may be the next location for women-only taxi services. In the last few months, Mexico and Lebanon launched such services because of the harassment women passengers and women drivers otherwise face (and several other countries already had women-only taxis).
Members of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights and other groups working to make Egypt a more equitable place for women are outspokenly against such a move. ECWR’s 2008 report on sexual harassment and on-going efforts to introduce anti-sexual harassment legislation has created a national dialogue about men who harass women in public spaces, and I am not surprised they are against this measure. Here is what opponents of the women-only taxi service are saying:
“Such moves represent a rights setback at legal, religious and society levels. They contradict the (Egyptian) constitution and international conventions, which establish equality between men and women.” – EGWR
“It’s very risky for our society. If it’s an excuse to solve problems like sexual harassment or other types of violence, it’s a very naïve solution for a very complicated problem…We need to see the reason and create a good solution, such as having proper transport or more security in the street, not isolate women in taxis.”
“Isolation is not the right idea to protect women. There is no problem with the mixing of women and men. The problem is bad morals and upbringing,” said Amna Nousseir, a professor at the Islamic seminary Al Azhar University. “It is alien to the nature of Egyptian women who have long been accustomed to walking and working alongside men without a problem,” she said.
And supporters of the service are saying:
“There is no need for such a fuss so long as women-only as well as mixed services are available,” said Mahassen Ahmad, a government employee. “Leave people to make their choices. To me, female-only taxis, driven by women, will be welcome to save women from the usual sexual harassment on public transport.”
A commentator identified as Nabil described it as “the best way to protect women against immoral sexual harassment. I pray that this practice will spread to all the Islamic states because it provides safety and security for women during their excursions.”
It’s hard to educate men not to harass women (or rather not educate them to harass women), but isn’t it worth it? Otherwise, women will still be harassed when they aren’t in a women-only taxi…