By Abhaya Srivastava, AFP
NEW DELHI–The class of middle-aged, male rickshaw drivers obediently raised their hands and loudly pledged to ��respect and protect women�� while plying the streets of New Delhi, dubbed India’s rape capital. ��Do you know even whistling at a woman or staring at her is a crime?�� trainer Namrata Sharan told 150 drivers at a compulsory ��gender sensitization�� class this month, referring to actions that could be considered sexual harassment. Much has changed in the two years since the gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi that triggered international outrage and protests about India’s treatment of women. Laws have been toughened to deter would-be rapists and initiatives introduced to educate men about respect and equal rights for women in the deeply patriarchal country. But some say this month’s case of a female passenger allegedly raped by an Uber taxi driver with a record of sexual attacks shows the country still has a long way to go two years after the fatal attack. ��What happened on Dec. 16 appeared to be a turning point,�� said the father of the physiotherapy student, who died from her injuries after being brutally raped on that date in 2012.
��The kind of protests that followed, laws that were changed �X all this made us believe that things are changing. But it was just wishful thinking,�� he told AFP ahead of Tuesday’s anniversary. ��The city continues to be very unsafe as the Uber case shows,�� said the father, who is planning a public remembrance ceremony for his daughter on Tuesday. ‘Mirage of safety’
Women, especially young, urban professionals, in Delhi who had come to rely on web and radio-based taxis are reassessing their safety after the case last week involving controversial U.S.-based Uber. With GPS technology, cheap and easy smartphone use and pledges of safety, taxi services had given women a sense of independence in recent years that they had not previously enjoyed as they traveled the capital and other cities. ��For a few years there, we working women in Delhi were living in a mirage of safety provided by radio taxis,�� TV journalist Sunetra Choudhury said in a blog last week.