Indonesia: Motorbike taxis launched for Muslim women

Published 23.11.2015 20:56

A new motorcycle-taxi service has been launched in Indonesia to cater to Muslim women, who have reservations about riding with men they are not married to, while also helping those fed up with sexual harassment on public transport. With major cities suffering chronic traffic congestion, the service aims to help female passengers who need to find a fast way to get from point A to B while also adhering to Islamic customs.

Evilita Adriani told Anadolu Agency that she was employed to deliver food, and occasionally taxi lady passengers afraid of utilizing the services of males in Surabaya, the port city of East Java, when she came up with the idea. "It is convenient because you needn't be troubled by the need to hold the waist or shoulders [of the driver], and you're more secure because you are protected from sexual harassment," the 19-year-old said Saturday.

She said she invited another courier, Reza Zamir, to set up Ojek Syar'i -- "Islamic taxi" or Ojesy for short - to deal with the problem. A report last year in the Jakarta Post said that many women had given up reporting sexual harassment on buses, knowing that such cases rarely make it to court.

Uli Pangaribuan, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women's Association for Justice, told the paper that lawyers representing victims often ended up arguing with police investigators over the charges to be pressed as neither party can agree on the difference between sexual harassment and offensive behavior. "The police say groping is just offensive behavior because there is no struggling and the victim is still dressed. While for us, the [struggling and undressing] constitutes attempted

rape," Uli told the Post. Adriani told Anadolu Agency that the new company requires its drivers - all female - to wear hijabs and loose clothing, and to own a motorcycle and an Android cellphone to respond to online bookings. Ojek Syar'i began operating in March and although originally solely reserved for Muslim women, over time, Adriani says that the service has garnered interest among non-Muslims as well. She says it now covers 12 cities in Java Island, and employs around 350 drivers, ranging from students to housewives. Although enthusiasm is high, she says there has been some negative feedback about their drivers. "But I stress to motorists that our ‘friends' - as we call our drivers - that this is not just regular work, but an effort to help other women," she underlines. She adds that the drivers also provide another valuable service, lending passengers an ear for their problems. "Some of our passengers have even been reduced to tears," she says, underlining how customers find the service to be an opportunity to let their guard down.

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