A taxi service employing women drivers and serving only women and children has been met with enthusiasm from many women online and hostility from some men.
On 29 August, a Facebook page for TaxiWoman was launched and the service began looking for drivers. According to the page, the company will offer more ‘safety and tranquility’ for women and boys under the age of 16.
The idea received positive comments from many women, with several writing that using taxis was not safe for women and complaining of frequent sexual harassment.
Mariam Ghaghetashvili, 19, told OC Media she was excited for the new service because she felt it was ‘dangerous to use taxis with man drivers nowadays’.
‘I have to use taxis very often, especially after public transport was shut down for a while [due to coronavirus restrictions], and a few times I faced really rude, or “flirty” drivers, and this annoys me very much’, Ghaghetashvili said. ‘I have been scared to take a taxi many times because of this.’
Inna Zhordania, 54, is one of the women to apply to drive for the service.
Zhordania told OC Media that she would frequently get nervous when she was out of town and one of her two daughters had to take a taxi to get home.
‘Always when she got into a taxi and was coming home, I was talking on the phone all the way because I was really worried, I didn’t know what kind of driver she would meet’, Zhordania said.
Several men reacted less enthusiastically to the new service, labelling it sexist against men.
‘We face ordinary discrimination and it does not matter if it is a private company or a public one, because the prohibition of discrimination also applies to the private sector’, wrote Facebook user Nikoloz Antadze on the TaxiWoman Facebook page.
Another user, Gio Kolbaia, reacted angrily to the new service.
‘If men did the same and said this is a company for men only, [women would say] God, you're so bigoted, sexist, pro-Russian, backwards and call us a thousand other bullshit things, but now, it's like nothing’, Kolbaia wrote on the TaxiWoman Facebook page.
‘You go nuts talking about gender equality, so what the hell is this you, truly sexist people?! Shit.’
‘Suddenly, he put his hand on my knee’
There are frequent reports in the media and on social networks of men taxi drivers sexually harassing or even raping women.
On 31 May, 18-year-old Mariam Begiashvili posted on Facebook that a 47-year-old taxi driver had sexually assaulted her, touched her, asked degrading questions and made comments about her body.
‘I was wearing shorts and suddenly he put his hand on my knee. He told me that he wanted to take a closer look at me and asked me to sit next to him’, Begiashvili wrote. ‘I said in a trembling voice, “I don’t want to”, but he continued talking all the way about my body.’
According to Begiashvili, the driver, Shota Zedgenidze, was fined ₾300 ($96) for sexual harassment.
On 4 September, Facebook user Ucha Abashidze posted about how a taxi driver attacked his friend after sexually assaulting her.
‘Because of the attention paid to this story last year, she put pepper spray in her bag and removed the pepper spray with her left hand,’ Abashidze wrote.
Abashidze wrote that when his friend tried to remove the taxi driver’s hand from her knee, the driver pushed her and she hit her head. The woman called the police, however, it is not clear if the driver faced any consequences.
TaxiWoman is not the first attempt to create a taxi service for women in Georgia; in 2012, a short-lived Pink Taxi service launched. The company stopped operating after many male drivers were hired and amidst reports that men were also using the service.