Updated: May 10, 2018
This is an opinion piece. The views or opinions expressed in this blog are those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of C Minds.
Author: Claudia Del Pozo, Projects Manager at C Minds
A couple weeks ago I was asked to be part of a news piece for Telemundo on a new Mexican shared rides platform with a twist: its clients and workforce are 100% female. This business model comes in the midst of a rising number of femicides in the country. In august 2017 there had already been 1077 femicides in Mexico. One of the most mediatized cases this year involves the murder of a young woman in the city of Puebla by a Cabify driver.
During the interview, I was asked the question on everyone’s mind: “how can we make everyday life safer for women?”.
Let us look at the transport industry, which shows alarming figures. 80% of women feel unsafe transiting through Mexico City. To respond to this growing concern, the transport industry has seemed to favor the solution of segregation. The metro and metrobus (the local BRT system) each have dedicated compartments for women, often represented by pink seats. For many women, including myself, those pink seats represent a brief moment of relaxation in our daily routine, a small space where we can drop our guard for a few minutes, before we must get off the moving vehicle and face catcalling and other forms of harassment in the streets.
“Now, is segregation really a solution?”, Telemundo asked me. “Are the other compartments really that bad?” Most of the time, nothing will happen to you, but is it worth worrying that today might be an unlucky day? Let us look at the figures: 8 out of 10 women have suffered some sort of aggression on public transport. Women cannot be living in constant fear. And when they are, then I would argue that we do need a physical space that can give us a mental break from the harassment we have to put up with daily. Knowing that something probably will not happen is not enough. We deserve actual safety, not the probability of it.
“Do we need such solutions in the private industry as well?” was the question that followed. Yes. Let us take the example of shared rides platforms. While a man, generally speaking, only needs to worry about how long it will take him to get where he is going, a woman might also have safety concerns in the back of her head: will she make it to where she is going? As another user of the women’s only shared rides platform said “should my heart drop every time my driver takes a wrong turn late at night?”.
Sexual harassment, defined as the harassment (typically of a woman) involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks, is the result of a much deeper, and more complex cultural problem. These systemic issues do not have an easy answer and, until these are resolved, women will continue needing solutions that provide exclusive spaces for them to ensure their safety. Women deserve the same quality of life as men, one that does not involve a constant state of angst. If the only way to achieve this is segregation, so be it.
This is not to say that Mexico is not taking steps towards a mental shift. In 2016, the city government issued an app and platform called “Live Safely”, which allows women to upload reports and complaints of harassment and violence. Users are asked to fill out a form, indicating the type of sexual violence they faced, the place, time and date and allows them to ask for support services. In 2017, the city government teamed up with the UN to create a campaign against sexual harassment aimed at men between 20-35 years of age. As part of it, they lined Metrobus stations with posters depicting a man’s face with a dirty look. The text reads: “This is the lustful look they give your girlfriend/sister/mom every day. Sexual violence is a felony and it can lead you to jail. Have respect.” While this is a great initiative, it is deplorable that the only way to get certain men to think of women as human beings is to remind them that their mothers, sisters and girlfriends are women. But we must recognize it is a start.
Solving the problem of sexual harassment in the Mexico City transportation system is one that will take time and require a number of initiatives, including preventive ones, such as segregation and C Minds’ Mapatón, reactive ones, such as the “Live Safely” app, and culture-shifting initiatives, such as the UN/Mexico City campaign. One initiative at a time, one person at a time, the city is taking steps towards becoming a safer place for women.