The Pakistani rape victim who fought back

December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

An interesting feature in the newspapers this week. Kainat Soomra, the Pakistani girl who was gang-raped and horrifically assualted at the age of 13, is still paying the price four years later.

Her family have had to move. Her brother has been killed. The stigma about rape is such that two of her sisters have lost their husbands or boyfriends through being associated with Kainat. This story is a stark reminder of how, in many communities, the rape victim is punished again, and again, and again. For something for which she was entirely blamless.

This case should make every woman feel humble. It’s easy to deplore this scenario and the circumstances which surround it. To shudder at any community that treats a woman’s life with such disregard, and seeks to punish her for being brave enough to stand up to her attackers – and let us remember she was only 13.

But to hear the recriminations this girl is going through for being so brave should make us feel humble, and full of admiration. Her story deserves to be read – it’s the least we can do.

Women-only cabs are a necessary evil in Mexico

September 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

Women cab drivers in Mexico City have found themselves caught up in the latest controversy surrounding the city’s current liberal Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. The city has long held a policy of gender divides on public transport with a third of the carriages of metro trains just carrying women only at key times.  But, Mayor Ebrard has just given in to calls for a women-only taxi service, and a new fleet of pink taxis will cruise the roads in a month-long pilot scheme.

The calls for female only fares has been championed by Susana Sanchez, a taxi driver who was stabbed by one of her male clients, and she first requested that the city run the service more than ten years ago.

Being seen by some as a discriminatory measure and a step backwards for equality, this story is also a personal triumph for Sanchez as an individual living in a male-centred culture, a terrific comeback after what one can assume was a fairly horrific attack. When it comes to separating out services or products across the gender divide, there is always a risk of being accused of bigotry – and in an ideal world, the streets would be safe enough to make these measures unnecessary.

However, in Mexico, seven out of every ten women over the age of 15 has been the target of a violent attack, according to the Mexican National Human Rights Commission. Almost a third has suffered violence in the workplace, and 12.4% of working women have experienced at least one act of sexual harassment.

Clearly there is a very serious and very real problem that needs to be addressed.

It’s time to celebrate a ballsy move by one victim who dedicated herself to improving her working conditions. How many of us would have got back into our cab after being stabbed in it by a male aggressor? This women only system is a necessary evil to give women safer working and travelling conditions, and to stand up to the threat of violence.

And of course no post on this would be complete without a picture of said pink taxis… So please see the wonderful photo below, courtesy of AFP.

A cheery female taxi driver in one of Mexico City's new pink cabs

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