But some women’s scholars and advocates don’t believe segregating the sexes is empowering, saying it could have a negative impact in the long run.
“The attempt is to shrink women into limited spaces,” said Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. “Women still have to come out and walk on the same streets and work in the same offices and shop in the same markets as men.” Limiting such spaces out of concern for women’s safety “is not at all a good message,” she said. “It encourages segregation and more violence.”
‘It’s not really safe’
One recent evening, Aishwarrya Kapoor, 20, a recent college graduate with a sociology degree, wanted to attend a birthday party at a club near a mall in downtown Delhi. As it happened, it was the same mall at which the victim in the gang rape had watched the movie “Life of Pi” with a male friend before heading home on a bus, where the attack occurred.
Kapoor’s mother was adamant: The young woman could go to the party only if she hired a cab driven by a female for the night.
“Because in India, even though we are in the 21st century, with any [male] cab driver it’s not really safe,” the young woman said.
The company Kapoor hired, Sakha Cabs for Women, was founded in 2010 in Delhi and now has 12 female drivers, with 62 others in training. After the gang rape, its founders say, business increased 50 to 60 percent, and they’re often booked several days in advance.
One of the young drivers, a college student who goes by one name, Geeta, 21, said she thinks her female clients feel more secure traveling with her than with a male.
“I think it’s horrible women have to find watertight compartments, so to say,” Geeta said as she shifted gears and sped through Delhi’s clamorous traffic, horns honking in her wake. At 4 feet 9 inches tall and 99 pounds, she has to sit on top of a tapestry pillow to see over the steering wheel.
“There should be women in all walks of life and all fields of life,” she said. “Where we don’t feel isolated.”
Suhasini Raj contributed to this report.