This Is Not the Answer to the Dangers of Rideshares

PHOTO: Maridav / Shutterstock

And China’s biggest ridesharing app finally “realized” that.

China’s biggest rideshare service, Didi Chuxing, announced last week that it would resume service for its carpooling service, Hitch, after it being down for a year after two women were murdered by drivers last year. In response to these killings, they also announced that women would only be allowed to book rides until 8 p.m., since safety and “sex-related” complaints from women were 45% higher between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Men would still be allowed to book rides until 11 p.m.

Understandably, this caused a huge backlash, as it was obviously punishing women for crimes committed by men. On the Chinese social media website Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, the hashtag “#WomenCantTakeDidiAfter8pm” began trending and women shared their upset.

Said by one user, “Men committed crimes, but they put a curfew on women instead of on men.”

Some have given the rideshare service a pat on the back for “trying.” Feng Lai, a professor at Shangai Normal University, told CNN that the rideshare service “probably had good intentions.”

This type of seemingly neutral statement is a camouflaged part of the problem, however. When are we going to stop casually excusing these types of corporate decisions based on the notion that their intentions were good? This is a major company that just discriminated against an entire gender. Regardless of intentions, the “fix” of restricting women from using the service was startlingly lazy and careless.

When are we going to stop casually excusing these types of corporate decisions based on the notion that their intentions were good?

“Please bear with us as we continue to explore different ways of making your rides safer,” a spokesperson for the rideshare service said. “User safety is our number one priority and we will closely monitor the Hitch service during this trial period and beyond.”

Earlier this year, Didi announced other (better) safety measures, including more rigorous checks on both drivers and passengers, a hotline allowing passengers to speak to someone in real-time, and a “virtual safety assistant.” In this safety revamp, they also unveiled facial recognition to prevent people from using fake identities (which is how one of the killings last year occurred after the driver faked his photo).

The trial relaunch of Hitch, announced by Didi on November 7, will indeed have the same service hours for all users, regardless of gender.

Oh Wow, Thank You

Didi, as a woman, I’d like to thank you for looking into new ways of keeping your female passengers safe that aren’t just telling them they can’t use your service at night. It is so benevolent that you found different ways to still include the people who are not at fault for crimes committed involving your service! It’s very neat indeed that you realized that the solution to violence against women while using your services isn’t just “not letting women participate at all anymore.”

Everyone—big companies included—needs to stop throwing their hands up and saying “I don’t know!” when it comes to men and the violence they direct at women. Men don’t get to act violently or uncontrolled in their sexual desires, and women shouldn’t be restricted because the perpetrators aren’t being held accountable for their actions. Hold the wrongdoer accountable first—in this case, the predominantly male drivers–and then think up new safety measures for your service for the people who are most at risk (in this case, riders who are predominantly female). It’s a difficult situation to navigate, but it’s not impossible, and restricting women’s access to services over something that isn’t their fault, although probably much easier for you, big corporation, is not the answer.

*Correction: This article has been updated to clarify the timeframe in which Didi strengthened its security measures.