The Indian city of Mumbai is making a change to its traffic lights in an effort to be more gender inclusive. The new design will now feature female figures wearing a dress, replacing the generic male stick figures.
Over 100 pedestrian crossings in the city will receive this change, which forms part of a wider plan to make streets more pedestrian-friendly.
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) August 1, 2020
Mumbai is the first Indian city to introduce this feature, joining other cities across the world. Various German cities and Geneva in Switzerland have both male and female figures, and in Vienna, Austria some traffic lights feature same-sex couples.
The move has been celebrated by women’s rights activists in the country as a small but significant step towards gender equality.
“The signage reflects the character of the city … that it believes in gender equality and promotes women’s empowerment,” Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner with Mumbai’s municipal corporation told Reuters.
“If a generation of little girls grow up seeing women figures on the traffic signals, it sends a small but powerful signal that women belong in the public,” added social scientist Shilpa Phadke.”The presence of such symbolism in the public might undo the idea that the imagined person on the street is male … this is symbolically valuable in the long run.”
Mumbai is largely considered one of safest cities in India for women, although in 2018 the country was named the most unsafe in the world in a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey. India ranked as most dangerous on three of the topic questions – the risk of sexual violence and harassment against women, the danger women face from cultural, tribal and traditional practices, and the country where women are most in danger of human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude.
According to CNN, the country has come under fire for its urban planning and how its impacts on women after a student was gang raped and murdered on a bus in New Delhi in 2012. Many cities in India have dark streets, remote bus stops and blind corners that affect the safety of women as they travel, especially at night.
Since then, India has made many moves towards bettering the situation, especially for young women. In Delhi, women have free public transport to encourage greater mobility. A number of Indian states also hand out free bicycles to girls to keep them in school and provide easy, accessible transport. In Mumbai, there are several women-only coaches on suburban trains and some bus seats are reserved for women.
Image: Twitter / @AUThackeray