Delhi drivers get lessons in respecting women

Authorities in the Indian capital, Delhi, have made it compulsory for all taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers to attend "gender sensitisation" classes where they are taught how to ensure the safety of women passengers and respect them.

The move comes after a series of high-profile attacks on women in the city in recent months, including the much publicised case of a 26-year-old woman passenger who was allegedly raped by a driver working for the web-based taxi service Uber earlier this month.

The woman had used the Uber smartphone app to book a taxi home on the night of 5 December but said she was taken to a secluded area and raped.

Image copyright AFP

The two-hour programme to train Delhi's 100,000 auto-rickshaw drivers was launched in January and officials say 45,000 have already received their training and certificates. "The clash is not between men and women, it's a clash of ideas," a trainer tells a group of drivers in this image.

Image copyright AFP

"Do you know even whistling at a woman or staring at her is a crime?" news agency AFP quotes trainer Namrata Sharan as telling a batch of 150 drivers at a recent class. Ms Sharan explains to the drivers what actions could be considered sexual harassment.

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Since the Uber case, the transport department in Delhi has made the gender sensitisation classes mandatory for taxi drivers as well as auto-rickshaw drivers. Mental health charity Manas is helping with the training, which is set to begin on 22 December, a spokesperson for Manas told the BBC.

Image copyright AFP

There has been increased focus on the issue of women's safety and crimes against women since the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi two years ago. Global outrage forced India's government to introduce tough new anti-rape laws, but crimes against women continue unabated in Delhi and the rest of the country - according to the National Crime Records Bureau, one rape is reported every 16 minutes.

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In recent months, some cities like Cochin in the southern state of Kerala have launched taxi services with female drivers - "She Taxi" - to provide safe transportation to women passengers. "She Taxis" is a fleet of 40 taxis run "by women, for women" and is fitted with wireless tracking gear and panic buttons linked to call centres.

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Campaigners, however, say gender segregation is not the answer and that women's safety can be achieved only by changing societal attitudes and making men respect women. Auto drivers who have completed the gender sensitisation course in Delhi are given a sticker to display behind their vehicles which says "this responsible rickshaw respects and protects women".