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Uber teaches Pakistani drivers how not to sexually harass women

Updated March 04, 2016

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Uber was banned from Indian capital Delhi after one of its drivers raped a young woman passenger there in 2014. ─Reuters/File
Uber was banned from Indian capital Delhi after one of its drivers raped a young woman passenger there in 2014. ─Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Uber is teaching its drivers in Pakistan how not to sexually harass women, a spokeswoman said on Friday, after the popular transport app launched its services in the country a day before.

In Pakistan, “there is lack of knowledge on what constitutes sexual harassment”, said Shaden Abdellatif, the spokesperson for Uber.

“It seems it is not part of the conversation in basic education,” she added, saying only Uber drivers in Lahore and in the Egyptian capital Cairo had to undergo the training.

The California-based Uber was officially banned from the Indian capital Delhi after one of its drivers raped a young woman passenger there in 2014 — in a case that made international headlines.

Women here have fought for their rights for decades in a country where so-called honour killings and acid attacks are commonplace.

Trainees were also told not to contact women after dropping them off, or to pass their passengers' phone numbers on to others.

“Our primary objective is that drivers understand that sexual harassment is not just about assaulting or harming someone,” said Tooba Fatima, from Pakistan-based social enterprise RABTT, which designed the training.

“Making someone uncomfortable is also harassment, whatever your intention is,” Fatima said.

“People here tend to stare, make comments on the way one is dressed, ask questions about who you are going to see or why. And it is the woman who ends up being told: 'You should not be out so late', 'Why would you go here or there'.”

Abdellatif said the company is trying to offer “a safer space in public transport for women through educating the drivers, even on a very basic level”.

Women generally do not participate in the labour market, mainly due to a lack of safe transportation, according to a study by the International Labour Organisation.

The Punjab government, meanwhile, launched an awareness campaign last year called “Women on Wheels” to highlight gender-based violence and street harassment.

Uber, which launched its service at a price of Rs13.7 per kilometre, hopes to expand to other cities.