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Malaysian women welcome female-only taxi service

02 december 2011, 10:12
A woman taxi driver with special stickers that say "women taxi" cleans her windscreen in Putra Jaya, outside Kuala Lumpur. ©AFP
A woman taxi driver with special stickers that say "women taxi" cleans her windscreen in Putra Jaya, outside Kuala Lumpur. ©AFP
A new scheme to provide women-only taxis is being welcomed by Malaysian commuters who say female passengers in the Muslim-majority country are vulnerable to robbery and other violence, AFP reports.

Launched at the weekend in the capital Kuala Lumpur by the government, the initiative already has an initial fleet of 50 taxis on the road, driven by women and emblazoned with the words "Teksi Wanita" ("Women Taxi") across the tops of the windshields.

"It's good of course. It's safer when we travel alone," said Fiena Nasir, a 26-year-old office worker, as she stepped into a cab in Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya on Wednesday.

Malaysia has previously launched pink-coloured female train carriages and women-only buses to protect travellers from sexual harassment.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, which launched the cab service in cooperation with several local taxi companies, hopes to expand to 400 such taxis to create more women cab drivers, which are currently rare.

There are about 20,000 taxis now plying greater Kuala Lumpur, which has a population of around six million people.

"These women (drivers), they need transport to drive their children to school. So we want to encourage other women to call for these taxis," said M. Suaparmanyam, a local businessman who is working with the ministry on the programme.

Suaparmanyam said some of the women drivers are concerned that male passengers will avoid their cabs.

Concerns also have been raised that the "Women Taxi" label could make the drivers targets of violence.

But Suaparmanyam says his electrical signalling company plans to help organise the training of 350 more women in self-defence and other basic skills to work as drivers by 2013.

Nor Azmah Bahari, a single mother of five who has been driving a taxi for four months, and was roped in under the new scheme, hopes the initiative will bring her more business.

She now earns about 150 ringgit ($47) per day, one-third of which goes to renting the taxi. Under the women-only scheme, she gets a 10-ringgit discount on the rent.

"I like driving. My schedule is flexible, and I don't have any (time) commitments."

Malaysia introduced female-only buses last year on several routes in Kuala Lumpur during peak hours to help counter sexual harassment on crowded public transport.

That followed pink train carriages launched earlier to give women the option of travelling separately from men.

More than 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million people are Muslim ethnic Malays, but the country also has large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

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