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‘Pink taxis’ promise Egyptian women comfy rides without fear of sexual harassment

UN report says 99.3 percent of women in Egypt say they have been subject to sexual harassment, with 91.5 percent having experienced ‘unwelcome physical contact’

12.06.2015 - Update : 12.06.2015
‘Pink taxis’ promise Egyptian women comfy rides without fear of sexual harassment

By Mohamed Sabry


Dina, a housewife who lives in Cairo, says she often shies away from taking public transportation – or taxis driven by men – to avoid potential sexual harassment. 

But a new cab service catering exclusively to female passengers is making the mother of two young children excited. The ‘pink taxi,’ expected to hit the streets of Cairo soon, will provide transportation services for  women by  women. 

“This is a brilliant idea,” she said. “The pink taxis will help me go out without fear, especially since my husband isn’t always available to drive me.”

According to a UN report issued in 2013, 99.3 percent of women in Egypt say they have been subject to sexual harassment. The same report found that 91.5 percent had experienced “unwelcome physical contact.”

Advocates of the idea say the taxis will help shield women against possible harassment and sexual assault. Critics, however, say the new service will reinforce gender segregation in Egyptian society.

“The idea emerged after numerous women demanded women-only cabs,” Amira Amir, the mastermind behind the project, said.

She added that the new cabs are glossy pink and are relatively affordable. They are also equipped with GPS devices, allowing customers to locate the nearest taxi. 

Cairo-based researcher Mariam Gamal expects the pink taxi service to thrive in Egypt’s relatively conservative society.

“It’s an excellent idea, especially since many girls and women are looking for taxis in which they can feel safe,” she said.

Gamal, who is currently working on a book about Egyptian taxi drivers, has called for creating a database of female drivers of the new pink taxis “in order to make things safer for women.”

Egypt has recently witnessed a surge in sexual harassment incidents against women, especially following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising that erupted in 2011. 

Last year, a female supporter of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was stripped, groped, and dragged by a mob through Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square during Sisi’s inauguration.

In June 2014, then-interim President Adly Mansour – installed by the military following the ouster of elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 – enacted a law criminalizing sexual harassment.

The law sets jail terms ranging from six months to five years for convicted harassers, doubling the sentence if the perpetrator is a repeat offender.

In recent months, several campaigns have been launched on social media calling on the Egyptian public to combat the trend. A public-awareness message recently appeared on Egyptian television calling on members of the public to stand up to harassers and defend sexual harassment victims. 

The new pink taxi scheme, however, has not gone down well with many male cab drivers, who say women account for a tiny percentage of taxi customers in Egypt.

“This project is going to fail,” Yasser Emam, a male taxi driver, said. “How many female passengers are going to take these pink taxis every day?”

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