SAO PAULO – In the time it takes to read this story, seven women in Brazil will have suffered some kind of physical violence, a scourge the Femitaxi app seeks to mitigate by offering a female-only transportation service.
Femitaxi was launched last December due to comments from several female friends about the inappropriate and unprofessional behavior of some taxi drivers, the app’s founder, Charles-Henry Calfat, told EFE.
Complaints about stares through the rearview mirror and requests for phone numbers at the end of the ride inspired Calfat to create the app, which thus far operates only in the cities of Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
“There have been numerous media reports about harassment on public transportation,” he said, adding that with Femitaxi female customers are connected with cab drivers of the same gender.
Rafaela Vanin, a 24-year-old business administration student, uses the app roughly three times a week.
“We really feel much safer and much more at ease riding with a woman,” she told EFE in downtown Sao Paulo after hailing a ride with the app.
The young woman recalled that some bad experiences in the past made her afraid to use a taxi and that she eventually avoided them altogether.
“Sometimes (the drivers) leer at you, or they don’t talk at all and that makes you feel even more tense,” she said.
One in three women in the city reports having suffered some kind of harassment while using public transportation, according to a survey that Datafolha conducted in late 2015 for the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.
A report published in 2016 by the international human rights organization ActionAid found that 86 percent of Brazilian women have experienced some kind of harassment in public spaces.
“Brazil is sexist,” Priscila Galante, one of 250 female taxi drivers available on Femitaxi, told EFE, adding that the service offers safety for drivers as well as passengers.
So far, roughly 10,000 women have downloaded the app, which is to start operating this year Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Porto Alegre and may be extended to other countries in the future.
Five women suffer physical violence every two minutes in Brazil, according to figures from the Special Secretariat for Women’s Policies, a division of the president’s office.
A total of 106,093 women were victims of sex-based homicides in Brazil between 1980 and 2013, the secretariat said.