Monday, September 20, 2010

Women Taxi Drivers Are Important Part of a Bigger Story

I loved reading Tracy Swartz's article about the two strong female cabbies in today's Red Eye. I always want to hear more about successful women in traditionally male-dominated industries.  These two women are among the 120 female licensed cab drivers in the city of Chicago and as you may guess, their experience is a bit different than the traditional male driver.

One relates: "You have to be on the defense without being rude. You have to expect what you'd never expect." The story reveals that these women have faced sexual harassment, attacks by male passengers and solicitations for prostitution.  While I am not surprised to hear these stories, it adds a new dimension to the story of sex trafficking in Chicago.

We have heard stories of male cab drivers who share profits with pimps and help the sex trade to thrive. Not all cabbies of course, but some cabbies are regularly paid for referring customers to pimps. This came to light in the just-released research on 25 Ex-Pimps in Chicago. This study by Jody Raphael and Brenda Myers-Powell documents how profit sharers all play a role in the sex-trade. They report: "Pimps said they shared profits with a host of other actors, including lawyers and doctors, but also bellman, hotel clerks, bartenders, and cab drivers, all of whom were regularly paid for referring customers."

The act of cab customers soliciting female cabbies for paid sex is clearly unacceptable. Why then do we tolerate the actions of those who perpetuate the demand for prostitution in Chicago? It’s time to speak up and to combat forced prostitution and human trafficking. This effort takes the collaboration of many, including criminal justice professionals and politicians. We must End Demand for prostitution in Illinois. 

According to the article, these two female cabbies will soon leave their cabs behind and move on to new careers. One will run for Alderman and one will study criminal justice. I wish them luck in their new careers and know of a movement that could use their help.

Lindsey LaPointe is a Policy Intern for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. 

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