Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
It's the latest women's safety initiative out of India to miss the larger point.
The Delhi Police announced Monday that the department will train low-income women to drive taxis around the city. The announcement closely follows the city government's ban on Uber following rape accusations against one of its drivers, and right before the December 16 anniversary of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in 2012.
In partnership with existing private cab companies, the new initiative is intended to help put "for-women-by-women" taxis—which are not new to Delhi but have had trouble staying afloat—back on the road. It's also being billed as a way to help more women who need jobs to get them. Both are admirable goals, to be sure. But much like the women-only compartments found in the Delhi metro system, this latest effort to make India's capital safer for women is an imperfect and impermanent one.
There are reports that 100 women from underprivileged sections of Delhi have already signed up to be part of the first class of drivers-in-training. And police are reaching out to more still, they say, through existing programs aimed at violence against women. Some of these women have driver's licenses, but others will need to be taught how to drive in the first place. All of them will get self-defense training, police officials say—by black-belted women constables, no less.
The only problem with this initiative, like the Uber ban itself, is that it misses the bigger picture. Black belts are not going to make Indian streets safer for women. Nor are drones, or a series of cartoonish bans. Women aren't the problem on the streets of Delhi, men are—yet we're still not seeing authorities design education programs aimed at them.