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Thursday, 28 December 2017

With a green light from Karachi, Pakistan´s women-only taxis eye new cities

KARACHI: Braving whistles, catcalls and vulgar remarks, Karachi´s female taxi drivers are determined to stay on the road to ferry women safely around the teeming city - from home to the office, to college and even to late night wedding parties.
Since March, women in Pakistan´s commercial hub have been able to hail the pink taxis - called Paxis - by phone, app or simply by flagging one down on the street.
The women drivers say they have faced harassment from other road users, but will persevere with the service.
"This (harassment) that we face is the occupational hazard of this job. It´s best to ignore such people, they will get used to sharing the roads with us!" said Shamina Bano, 43, a mother of grown-up sons and one of the drivers with the first ever gender-segregated taxi service.
Wearing a hot pink headscarf, Bano said she left her previous job as a personal secretary after her boss started making "untoward advances".
"Working in an all female environment feels so much more comfortable; I don´t have to look over my shoulder anymore," she said.
The app asks potential riders the number of passengers and if there are any men accompanying them. If the man is between 12 and 70 years old, the request will be turned down.
Mehreen Faizan, 28, also a Paxi driver, had initially applied to work for another taxi service.
"When I found out I´d have to chauffeur male clients as well, my husband was not very happy about it. He then suggested I apply here," she said.
Commuting in the sweltering city of 20 million is often an ordeal for women.
A report by Karachi´s Urban Resource Center found most female commuters experience some form of sexual harassment while using public transport.
And before the pink taxis, getting a cab in Karachi could also be unpleasant for women.
From sitting in "messy and smelly cars" to being driven by drivers who are lost but refuse to use the GPS system, to being stared at through the rear view mirror or driven too fast, there is a long list of complaints women commuters have against male taxi drivers.
Women drivers, however, are careful and happy to accept directions, said regular pink taxi users.
"It´s very reassuring and comfortable," said Sobia Athar, a college lecturer, who uses the service regularly despite it being a bit more expensive than other taxis.

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