For Mexican women, a hassle-free taxi

But activists are unsatisfied

The Associated PressOctober 20, 2009 

— Each pink taxi comes with a beauty kit, a GPS system and an alarm button.

The new fleet of 35 cabs in Mexico's colonial city of Puebla are driven exclusively by women and don't stop for men. The cabs cater especially to those tired of leering male drivers.

"Some of the women who have been on board tell us how male taxi drivers cross the line and try to flirt with them and make inappropriate propositions," said taxi driver Aida Santos, who drives one of the compact, four-door taxis with a tracking device and an alarm button that notifies emergency services. "In the Pink Taxi they won't have that feeling of insecurity, and they feel more relaxed."

Women's rights activists are aghast at the cars' sugary look and said the service does not address the root of the harassment problem.

"We are in the 21st century, and they are saying women have continued worrying about beauty and nothing more," said Vianeth Rojas, of the Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Puebla. "They are absolutely not helping eradicate violence against women."

The new taxis, however, undeniably open up to Mexican women what has been an overwhelmingly male profession.

Taxi driver Lidia Hernandez, 40, who previously worked at a gas station, called the pink Chevy compacts "a new and attractive source of employment."

Women-only taxis have been catching on in cities from Moscow to Dubai.

In Puebla, privately financed Pink Taxi de Puebla invested about $440,000 to start the service and the Puebla state government provided licensing and training.

If the program succeeds, officials plan to expand it to other cities.

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