Lebanon Banet Taxi 248.88 .
(photo credit: )
Taxis driven by women and exclusively serving the fairer sex are the rage in Arab capitals as women seek a safe and comfortable mode of transport.
Lebanon's Banet Taxi ('Taxi Girls'), sporting signature candy-pink taxis and well-kept uniformed drivers, began in March.
Now, following the Lebanese success, two Egyptian governors in Cairo and Alexandria have stirred controversy with proposals to service women-only taxis.
"It means isolation for women," Nehad Abul Komsan, Chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights told The Media Line. "It's very risky for our society. If it's an excuse to solve problems like sexual harassment or other types of violence, it's a very naÃ¯ve solution for a very complicated problem."
"We need to see the reason and create a good solution," she said. "Such as having proper transport or more security in the street, not isolate women in taxis."
Cairo's subway network already reserves the fourth and fifth carriages for women not wishing to sit with men.
Although some women welcome the 'female taxis' as a harassment-free mode of transport, others say it fuels discrimination against women and perpetuates their status as second-class citizens.
Women's rights advocate Rasha Alawi told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi that she applauded the decision and said she believed it would offer a form of protection for women who face sexual harassment on public transport.
A commentator identified as Nabil described it as "the best way to protect women against immoral sexual harassment. I pray that this practice will spread to all the Islamic states because it provides safety and security for women during their excursions."
In Damascus a similar women-only taxi initiative is being launched by Widad Kanafani, aiming to make transportation more secure for female passengers.
"The objective of this project is in no way to fight the men," she told the paper. "It actually aims to help them in that it removes the onus of the women so that women can serve women."
Dubai has had a women-only pink taxi service since 2007 and the Roads and Transport Authority will be launching a women-only bus service in April 2010 to accommodate an increasing number of female passengers.
In Jordan the Amman Municipality turned down a request to set up a taxi rank to serve women exclusively and employ female drivers with rose-colored vehicles, saying there were too many taxis in the capital already.
Some male taxi drivers have expressed concern that their profession, which has always been a bastion of male dominance, is being usurped.
"I don't think this is a job that's appropriate for a lady," a male taxi driver told Al-Quds Al-Arabi. "As it is, we're suffering from a financial crisis and we don't need to share this profession with women."