Mexican City Test Drives Women-Only Taxi Service

The Mexican city of Puebla has joined the women-only taxi revolution in a bid to protect women from harassment. The move comes over the objections of women’s rights advocates, who charge the measure fails to address underlying problems plaguing women in Mexican society.

A new fleet of 35 bright-pink taxis driven by women have hit the streets, serving only female clientele. Each car comes equipped with a tracking device and an alarm, as well as mirrors in the back to allow women to fix their makeup.

Most Puebla women have responded positively to the new service, but doubts remain among some activists.

“We are in the 21st century, and they are saying women have continued worrying about beauty and nothing more. They are absolutely not helping eradicate violence against women,” Vianeth Rojas, of Puebla’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights told the Associated Press.

Gender-based violence and discrimination against women is endemic across Mexico. Women and girls are regularly caught up as victims in the country’s deadly drug wars. They also face continuing battles over abortion rights and the sobering reality that one in four Mexican females has faced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner, according to Amnesty International (.pdf).

In recent years, Mexico’s federal authorities have made significant legislative changes designed to combat domestic and gender-based violence. But spotty implementation and engrained institutionalized discrimination have translated into little real change for women.

Women-only taxi services operated by private companies have been popping up across the globe in recent years. Cities in Columbia, England, India, Lebanon, Russia and the United Arab Emirates feature or have tested out similar services as a means of increasing security and addressing cultural or religious concerns. Other Mexican cities as well as authorities in Australia are closely watching Puebla’s experiment, with an eye toward replicating the program should it prove successful.