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Mexico: Safety comes in pink taxis

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Eliana Aponte/Reuters

(Read caption) A taxi driver arrives for her shift in Puebla, Mexico.

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A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

One of the first lessons a new visitor in Mexico learns, especially a woman, is this: Do not hail a cab off the street. Too often criminals posing as drivers transport passengers not to their requested destinations but to bank machines to empty out their savings.

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Now Mexico has an answer, at least for women: The central city of Puebla this October unveiled a fleet of 35 bright-pink cars for women only, and Mexico City followed suit in November with plans for a similar service.

Recommended:Mexico City's newest bus option: 'Ladies Only'

Female-only cabs are not only intended to shield women from would-be criminals but also from lewd looks and sexual passes. The idea came after Mexico City launched a new fleet of women-only buses in January 2008 that refuse men passage. The city also offers women-only space in the subway.

Mexico joins countries as far away as Lebanon and India trying to provide smoother and safer transport for female commuters, as more and more women join the workforce. (Read about Lebanon's pink taxis here.)

In Mexico, “pink taxis” might arrive in other cities if the program is deemed a success. But not all are in favor.

Mexican feminists, for one, have grumbled that the pink-hued vehicles, which come equipped with global-positioning systems and panic buttons, reinforce old stereotypes about women. But others have more tangible concerns. While taxi drivers have a bad rap in Mexico, they also are often victims.

Maricela Luna has been driving a taxi in Mexico City for a decade, ever since her kids grew up and she found that employers considered her too old.

“I had to look for something to employ myself,” she says. She says taxi driving is a good profession for a woman, even though it can be risky (she has been robbed by passengers a few times). That’s why she thinks pink cabs are a bad idea. Behind the wheel of her maroon and gold cab, she blends in.

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“If you are in a pink car you stand out. They would know you are a female driver,” she says.