Uber and a Cairo-based anti-sexual harassment non-profit, HarassMap, will partner together and train drivers in recognising and reacting to sexual assault in Egypt. The lessons would include the causes and types of sexual harassment, laws against sexual harassment, and how to react as a witness or victim of sexual harassment.
"Every driver on the Uber app will be trained to take positive action against sexual harassment and every trained driver will receive a certificate of recognition along with a car sticker vowing to take positive action in the case of witnessing sexual harassment, " a company statement said on Wednesday (4 November).
Over 99.3% of Egyptian women and girls surveyed by the United Nations said that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. Additionally, a 2014 HarassMap study found that at least 95% of women in Egypt had been sexually harassed, most often while walking down the street in broad daylight or while using public transport.
In June 2014, the Egyptian government criminalised sexual harassment and assault for the first time and decreed that offenders would face up to five years in prison, along with fines of between 2,000 and 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($249 and $623). Critics, however, feel this is too lenient considering the number of incidents that take place everyday. In addition it is extremely difficult for women to make official complaints about such incidents in a country widely known for its conservative approach towards women.
Uber's tainted record
Amidst tough challenges in Egypt, Uber has been battling a string of controversies related to its operations and drivers all over the world. In India, a New Delhi court on Tuesday (3 November) handed over a life sentence to a former Uber driver convicted of raping a passenger in 2014.
In June an Uber driver was arrested by the Los Angeles police for kidnapping a drunk woman and taking her to a hotel, intending to sexually assault her. Another LA woman was reportedly abducted by an Uber driver recently, who took her almost 20 miles out of her way, ignoring her questions and directions, and drove her into a dark empty parking lot in the middle of the night.
There are dozens of incidents that have come up against Uber drivers, which range from attacking a rider with a hammer to fondling a passenger. Uber's services have been banned by countries like Thailand and Japan, several cities in India, Australia, South Africa and Taiwan.
With this renewed attempt it is clear that Uber does not want to lose out on the Egyptian capital of Cairo, known for its snarling bottlenecks, which has become one of Uber's fastest-growing cities. About 40% of the company's drivers in Egypt were unemployed before joining the service. The company officially launched operations in Cairo in February, and since then the number of Uber drivers in Cairo had grown sixfold. Uber has also announced an investment of $250m (£16.2m) to expand in Middle Eastern and North African cities.