The woman was unwilling to file a complaint, but an employee forum went to the police.

Uber driver detained for harassing woman employee of Thiruvananthapurams TechnoparkImage for Representation
news Sexual Harassment Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 20:15

In an incident that has caused considerable worry among employees of Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram, an Uber driver was taken into custody for sexually harassing his passenger.

The Uber driver identified as Santhosh Kumar was taken into custody and released after a case was taken against him for misbehaving with a woman. The women forum of Prathidhwani, a socio-Cultural organisation of Technopark employees, had lodged a complaint with the Kazhakuttam Cyber City Police on Monday.

The incident took place on June 13 when the employee was traveling to her home in Jagathy at 7.30 in the night.  

“The driver was polite when the ride began. She was seated diagonally opposite to the driver seat. His seat was adjusted farther than usual, which the woman thought might be for convenience.  She noticed that even if there was not much traffic he was hesitating to increase the speed. She was scared that if she asks to raise the speed he might increase it to the maximum level,” says the police complaint filed by Prathidwani.

The driver then misbehaved with her. When she yelled, he stopped the car at a nearby petrol pump. “The driver without any expression, apologised and left,” it reads.

Though she complained to Uber, she only got a routine apology mail stating that such incidents will not be repeated. The next day she got the same mail from Uber again.

“We won’t be able to take a decision to boycott Uber. Here in the city, there is a gender bias, women are not expected to walk alone at odd hours. Since we have to work during various shifts we are forced to choose between any mode of commutation available to us. But in this case, it was not even ‘late’. Even at that time a woman was not safe,” Magi Y V, Convener, Prathidhwani Women’s Forum told TNM.

She added many women feared to talk about such instances for the fear of sensationalism and lack of support. “The woman in the case was not willing to file a complaint and she does not have family support either. We have heard and read about Uber drivers misbehaving with women, this goes against their logo which claims to be passenger friendly,” she said.

Rajeev Krishnan, secretary, Prathidhwani, says that the organisation has decided to take up such issues even if the victims were not willing to come forward. “We can understand the mental state that these women may be in, which dissuades them from going to police. But, the forum has decided to take it up,” he said. 

“We can’t however take a decision to boycott Uber. There are alternatives, but, we can’t depend on that every time.” Rajeev says.

However Assistant Commissioner (Kazhakuttam Cyber City) A Pramod Kumar told TNM that the accused was let off as the woman was not willing to go ahead with the complaint. “We charged him with a petty case,” he said.

Meanwhile, an Uber spokesperson said, “What has been described is deeply upsetting. Behaviour of this nature has no place on the Uber app. We internally investigated the matter and the driver partner was immediately barred from accessing the app.”