An alleged rape by an Uber driver is one more sign of India's gender violence problem

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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and you’re listening to The World. The online car-sharing service, Uber, is used to facing legal hurdles in many countries, and bad press. It’s facing both in India right now after an Uber driver was accused of raping his passenger in New Delhi. The driver was arrested and appeared in court today. Following the incident, city officials banned the service in Delhi, citing regulatory problems. To find out more, we turn to our friend and reporter Rhitu Chatterjee in New Delhi.


Rhitu Chatterjee: So, this was friday night; this 27-year-old business executive, she ordered the cab and happened to fall asleep. When she woke up, she found that the cab had stopped at a secluded place and the cab driver attacked her and allegedly raped her, and then told her that if she breathed a word about this to anyone, he would kill her.


Werman: What has been the reaction to this particular case and the fact that it involved Uber?


Chatterjee: Especially after the announcement of the ban happened, what I’ve been really seeing on social media and talking to friends is “When is banning one cab company going to solve a deeply-rooted social problem?”


Werman: What had been the reputation of Uber in India prior to this incident?


Chatterjee: Uber was doing pretty well. A few months ago, when that flood hit Kashmir, Uber collaborated with Twitter in collecting relief items from citizens to deliver to Kashmir flood victims. So, it had a decent reputation. But then there is also the issue of whether Uber was doing thorough background checks for its drivers as the company does in the US. The fact is that, no, it hasn’t been doing a rigorous background check in India.


Werman: A couple of years ago I was in London, I was having dinner with an Indian woman and a British woman, and after dinner it was 11PM. The British woman went off to her bus and the Indian woman was shocked, she said she’d never do that in Delhi. What about you? After dark or after hours, do you have any personal rules about the kind of transport you will take in the interest of personal safety?


Chatterjee: Oh, absolutely. I will use the metro, which runs until about 11PM. However, I will not use auto rickshaws and I will not call a cab company. I will only use my local cab guy, my neighborhood cab service, because I’ve been with them long enough that I know a few drivers and I trust them. Or I will use this other cab service run by women and is only for women. In fact, a few months ago I had a friend visiting from the US and he was landing at 2:30 in the morning. I was really worried, I was like “How am I going to get to the airport that late at night? I don’t feel that safe taking any cab.” My mother suggested “Hey, you did a story about this other cab company for women. You should hire them,” and that’s what I did and that’s who I feel safest with. Ultimately, it’s about changing mindsets of men towards women and making public spaces safer for women and providing safe public transportation for women. That’s the ultimate problem. It isn’t really about Uber or any particular cab service.


Werman: Our friend and colleague in New Delhi, Rhitu Chatterjee. Great to speak with you Rhitu. Thanks for your time.


Chatterjee: Thanks Marco.