May 30, 2010

Getting Home Safe

I can't remember how old I was but the TV newsflash was never forgotten: A woman had leaned into her car, maybe to get something from the front seat. A man came up from behind, kidnapped, raped and killed her. A Journalist then stood before the camera, appealing to the public for information by describing what the victim was wearing. "A tight pink holder-neck top and a very short skirt..." There was no mistaking the innuendo that it was the victim's clothes that "enticed" the attack. There was no mention of her name, where she had parked. The general consensus was she had asked for it. 

As a young woman growing up, I resented the fact that I "had" to watch what I wore in case I set off one of those signals that only rapists could see and hear, and I was really pissed off that I was being asked to pay the same tax rate as my males counterparts but was not allowed to enjoy the freedom they had to explore a city park after dark. It does seem a little archaic to place the responsibility of a rapist's actions on that of his victim but that's the way things were for a while. 

Things have changed in the decades since my rebellious youth. Media has exposed us to all sorts of hideous crimes we would otherwise never have heard about. Charities are set up to collect victims at the bottom of the cliffs, and legislation is forever trying to cater for the violent changes happening in our society - albeit at a snail pace. 

So, if it's now acceptable for women to wear what they want when they want - pretty much in the same way men do - then why would taxi companies refuse to ensure these "scantly clothed women" get home safe?

In a recent report in the Herald News, one reporter claimed 15 out of 20 taxi drivers refused her fare on the basis that the trip was less than 1km. 

Urgent Cabs was one of the worst at refusing fares. Auckland manager Zakir Yaswen admits he is concerned about staff refusing rides. "It all comes down to one thing, greed. It's a personal issue with the driver. They can make money off short trips, but they aren't thinking like that."

According to the New Zealand Transport Authority a driver cannot refuse a passenger unless they feel threatened or the passenger is intoxicated, consuming food or drink or in a "filthy condition".

Taxi Federation president Tim Reddish acknowledges there is a problem with drivers refusing to take passengers for short distances. "It's an unfortunate practice, it's absolutely illegal and does the industry no good." 

NZTA spokesperson Ewart Barnsley confirms drivers can be fined $400 for refusing a short trip - but he adds there is trouble enforcing the rules in practice...but...that's what they are hired to do." So, next time you're out and about and a cab refuses to take your fare, note the licence plate number and make a complaint to the NZTA. After all, getting you home safe is their job, "that's what they are hired to do.

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