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Girls & Women

India Is Targeting Rickshaw, Taxi Drivers to Stop Violence Against Women

Almost five years ago, a gang rape incident on a bus in New Delhi sent shockwaves through India, causing the government to tighten its anti-rape laws.

But just two years later, an Uber driver in the city, the country’s capital, was accused of raping a female passenger, the BBC reported, grabbing international attention again. This time, the Indian government mandated “gender sensitisation” classes for rickshaw and taxi drivers seeking to renew their commercial licenses.

And while amending laws to better protect women is a crucial step forward, a recent Human Rights Watch report found that changing laws alone is not enough. There must also be a change in the harmful beliefs about sexual harassment and the role of women in public that enable gender-based violence to occur.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

In 2013, United Nations Women reported that 95% of women and girls in India felt unsafe in public spaces. And though Indian women are not necessarily more vulnerable to sexual violence when riding in rickshaws or taxis than they are in other scenarios, according to the Guardian, tens of thousands of men interact with the women that way around Delhi everyday, making it a great place to start.

The Manas Foundation, a local nonprofit, began offering “gender sensitisation” classes in January 2014 and by December, the classes were mandatory. During these classes men are allowed to ask questions and share their thoughts, while instructors work to dispel misinformation, according to the Guardian.

The classes have been met with mixed reactions.

“Of course you have to respect women,” one participant told the Guardian. “But I’m an old man. Why do I need to attend such a class?” 

He added that “Generally, 99% of women behave wrongly...They don’t know how to talk to elders.”

Others recognize that women account for a large percentage of their customers, and that they stand to gain by treating them better and providing a safe mode of transportation for them.

Read more: Despite India’s Anti-Rape Laws, Sexual Assault Is Still a Major Problem

Global Citizen campaigns to #LeveltheLaw to ensure that women are seen as equals in the eyes of the law and society. You can take action here to help protect women against gender-based violence.

“Here [in Delhi] women are educated, they take up the whole rickshaw,” driver Mohammad Sajiid told the Guardian. “They pay independently...Without women, how will we make money?”

Sajiid said he found the classes to be very good, and he’s not the only one, which gives instructors hope that people’s mindsets are slowly changing. An older driver encouragingly told Rutika Sharma, who helps run the Manas Foundation’s “gender sensitisation” initiative that, “If you reach 20 people in a class of 100, there will be change,” according to the Guardian.