In March, eNCA reported that a gang of men were driving around in a white Quantum minibus taxi picking up women in and around Soweto, then robbing and raping them. The Sowetan in the same month interviewed a victim of a taxi rape and robbery case, who was raped by three men after she and her son had boarded a taxi. There has been multiple cases of women getting raped in taxis in the past few months. The solution should be men realising that they don’t own women’s bodies. We shouldn’t be telling women to tone down on how they dress, or that they should not use a taxi at night. We should be telling men to stop raping. But, as we all know, the reality is different, and for a lot of women, often scary.
We asked three young women if they consciously make sure they are safe in taxis, and how they do it. “I don’t feel safe in taxis,” says Buhle Sikhosana, who’s originally from Soweto, but now stays in Braamfontein as she is studying at the University of Johannesburg. Like many of us, she grew up taking a taxi almost anywhere she went, and still does.
“Taxi drivers are known for mistreating women, especially those they consider ‘sexy’. So I also have to make sure I’m dressed ‘decently’ when I take a taxi – I have to make sure I’m not wearing shorts, a mini skirt or anything that will show my thighs.
A reasonable number of taxi rapes and robberies take place in empty taxis. Which is why Njabulo Tshabalala always makes sure she doesn’t get into an empty taxi. “I make sure there are like four or five people because if it’s three they might still be working together. I also avoid taking a taxi alone, especially at night. So I make sure to be with a friend or two.”
Thato Mogotsi’s solution is to just avoid taxis altogether. “Normally, I don’t take a taxi because of the safety issue,” she says. “I prefer to take a bus. Bus drivers don’t catcall or grope. So a bus is my safest option.” Thato goes on to admit that she has never been a victim of taxi sexual harassment. Neither has she witnessed any case. But she just chooses to play it safe.
#SafeTaxisNow is a Soul City Institute of Social Justice campaign that’s aimed at making taxis safe for women. Join the call to make our taxis safer by shaping the safe taxis charter here.