“I have been riding bikes since I was in class 7. I have been on solo rides across the country. And yet, I keep listening to people making jokes on how women are bad drivers,” says Sana Iqbal, a 29-year-old Hyderabadi woman biker.
When she was going through depression, Sana went on a solo bike ride across India. Riding her bike was the only thing that kept her going, she says. But despite being a rider for several years, she constantly faces derogatory jokes on women riders.
According to Deccan Chronicle, the Hyderabad RTA officials have revealed that women hold just 5.64% of the total driving licences in the city. To encourage more woman drivers in the city, Hyderabad RTA has decided to provide driving licences exclusively to women on March 8 to mark International Women’s Day.
But an exclusive camp cannot do much for women drivers’ confidence. One of the reasons for such a low number of women drivers is that women are constantly discouraged by the comments they frequently face.
“If a man meets with an accident, that’s just fine. But If it’s a woman, it’s a whole different scenario. Everyone says ‘we told you not to drive, women are bad drivers’ and other such things. It has always been like that,” she says.
Among the frustrating and sexist comments she faces on the road are “Wait let her go, or else she’ll ram the bike on us.”
“One of my friends once met with an accident a few years back. She was a good driver, but after the accident, people warned her so much about driving that she is now scared. Now her husband drops her to the office. It is sad that these issues are neglected, but this also a form of stigma,” she says.
And it’s not just men who make sexist jibes at women drivers - everyone indulges in it.
Geetika, a 26-year-old IT professional says that even though she can drive, when she is with her male friends, they insist on driving.
“My other friends don’t trust my driving. They mock me by saying, ‘we don’t want to die’,” she says.
“I have seen my woman friends also making fun of women drivers. It is not just the men. Once my best friend and I went out for a drive. A car was taking too long to turn. My friend just simply said, ‘must be a woman, why do they even try when it is not their cup of tea’,” she says.
Vankadarath Saritha, a woman bus driver who had recently applied for a job with the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), has faced such abuse for far too long.
“The issue is not just limited to the state but it is a thinking of more than 50% of the people. When I first started driving an auto rickshaw in 2005, people used to make fun of me. But I feel there is no job only reserved for men, as there is nothing a woman cannot do,” she says.
When Saritha was training to drive heavy vehicles, she faced similar comments.
“I got my heavy vehicle driving license nine years ago. During the training, I could see in everybody’s face that they doubted my skills,” she says.
Saritha used to work with the Delhi Transport Corporation, and on her first day on the job, many male colleagues were very sarcastic. They told her, “Don’t kill people or hit the bus somewhere. Be safe.”
Speaking to TNM, Telangana State Road Transport Corporation’s spokesperson says that although they have 33% reservation for women drivers, not a single woman turned up for recruitment last year.
“The main reason is, bus is a heavy vehicle, not all women are comfortable and confident driving,” says G Kiran from TSRTC.