A French start-up is launching a women-only taxi service in Paris. The company, Women Drive, is the latest to join the realm of 'sharing economy' transport services such Uber and Lyft, and capitalises on its exclusively female drivers to serve an exclusively female clientele.
Its message is straightforward, as one can read on the company's website: "Do you wish to travel at any time of the day, free of indiscreet looks, delicate questions, or ambiguous proposals? Do you want to be a passenger that's respected, protected and listened to?"
A 1.5 mile ride comes at €20 (£18.5), and a one hour service amounts to €50, proving that safety is a luxury few can afford. For now, the service is exclusive to Paris, but Boubchir hopes to expand it nationwide in the future.
The goal is to prove that "transporting people is not a profession reserved for men, and that women have the right to be transported in peace," startup founder Sarra Boubchir told Le Figaro.
She was inspired to create her own taxi service after an altercation with a male driver. Driving home from a work event, her and another passenger suffered his unwanted and relentless sexually charged remarks. When the women failed to respond to his advances, he dropped them off on the side of the road, nowhere near their destination.
Boubchir wishes to promote "feminine excellence." In addition to transportation, the travelers are treated to a personal shopper service and free make-up kits. Men are not barred from hopping on a Women Drive taxi, however, the main target demographic will remain women.
When asked if she would support a women-only taxi initiative, the leader of a French association fighting against catcalling and street harassment, Héloïse Duché, argued that women-only services were just "marketing stunts that strengthened sexist stereotypes."
In the last five years, many female travellers have experienced unwanted sexual advances from their drivers. Between 2012 and 2015, Uber infamously recorded 170 cases of sexual assault. Between February 2015 and Februay 2016, there were 32 reports of sexual assault and rape made to the Met Police.
These cases have prompted the launch of a myriad of women-only services, such as Shesafe, which launched in Australia in early 2017, or its US alternative, She-Taxi, whose pink cars compete with the iconic New York yellow taxis.
On August 22, Shadow Home Office minister Chris Williamson suggested the UK should offer women-only train services in order to tackle sexual assaults. The original idea was introduced by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn back in 2015, and he experienced backlash then.
His suggestion was met with scepticism. Many observed that such an alternative presented women as temptresses that needed to be kept away from "sex obsessed" men.