JAKARTA: Female motorbike taxi drivers in headscarves zig-zag through heavy traffic in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the latest two-wheeled transport service for women making a dent in the male-dominated world of ride-hailing apps in the Muslim nation.
A flurry of new motorbike taxi options have in the past year appeared in the metropolis of 10 million, led by popular service Go-Jek, giving Indonesia’s growing middle class a greater choice of transport to get through some of the world’s worst traffic jams.
The services — many inspired by ride-sharing app Uber and accessible on smartphones — are a challenge to traditional motorbike taxis in Indonesia, known as ojeks, which are ubiquitous but have drawn criticism with their dishevelled, dangerous drivers and unpredictable pricing.
Several services with women drivers entered the market in 2015 after years of growing piety in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, and amid heightened safety concerns following reports of attacks on women by male motorbike taxi drivers.
They are in part designed with religious sensitivities in mind, as an increasing number of Muslim women wear headscarves and follow strict interpretations of Islam that forbid close contact with the opposite sex, except between married couples.
“The need for transportation for women is huge, especially in big cities where rates of crime and sexual harassment are very high,” Evilita Adriani, co-founder of motorbike taxi company Ojek Syari, told AFP.
Popularly known by its nickname “Ojesy”, it is the service that aims most clearly at devout female passengers, requiring its drivers to be Muslim women wearing headscarves and loose-fitting clothes.
Ojesy drivers can currently only be hailed by a phone call or through mobile messaging service WhatsApp, but the service is also developing an app that was being tested out this month.
The service, which began in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya in March before expanding across the main island of Java, only accepts female passengers or children.
“I feel more comfortable sharing a ride with a fellow Muslim woman,” said Nurlaila, a Surabaya housewife who goes by one name.
She uses the service to take her children to school — a common practice in the country where whole families often travel squashed together on a motorbike.