In May 2018, Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing service company, suspended its hitch carpooling service from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. as part of its response to the murder of a woman passenger. On November 6, Didi announced that it would resume this service, but in order to ensure the safety of women passengers, it would ban women from using the service after 8 p.m.
The plan was supposed to be put into practice as a pilot in seven cities on November 20, but was canceled as a result of a public backlash, which labeled the move as discrimination against women. Although it was canceled, the plan led to debate and discussion on what new rules Didi should adopt when it resumes this service and problems concerning this type of public transportation.
Need a better solution
Cao Hongtao (www.ce.cn): There should not be a time limit imposed on women who want to use Didi's ride-hailing service. To some extent, this practice may prevent some crimes targeting women, but it will not fundamentally help to eradicate the possibility of such crimes. If a driver intends to assault a woman, it can happen at any time, and will not stop just because women are refused access to Didi's ride-hailing service after 8 p.m.
Indeed, for women, it is more dangerous to go out in the evening than at other times, but this should not be an excuse for their right to travel in the evening to be stripped away. As a ride-hailing platform, it's all right for Didi to warn women of possible danger, but it's unacceptable for it to refuse to offer services to women after 8 p.m. The necessity to travel at night will always be there. What a business should do is not deprive women of the right to do so, but try to make it more convenient and safer.
In essence, the case of women being murdered using Didi's hitch carpooling service is an issue of safety. We know that women are always more vulnerable to crimes, but sometimes, men passengers are also prone to attacks. Therefore, the platform is required to take the overall situation into consideration, instead of narrowly cancelling the service.
It's ridiculous to ask the vulnerable party to pay the price for crimes it may suffer. It is the potential murderers who need to be deterred. Meanwhile, sometimes, drivers are also victims. The key is to prevent both sides from being attacked, and this involves a well-developed comment and review system. While the qualification of drivers should be assessed, whether passengers might pose a threat to drivers should also be considered.
It's great that Didi has made an overhaul of its operation and management systems. In the process of implementing its new rules, Didi has stated it's opened to opinions and suggestions from the public, which are expected to make it a better ride-hailing platform in the future.
Commentator (guancha.gmw.cn): In response to the accusation of discrimination against women, Didi has made an adjustment to its original scheme. Now, both women and men will not be able to use its hitch carpooling service after 8 p.m. However, this new rule will only lead to a lose-lose situation for both women and men passengers.
Currently, women are playing an increasingly important role in terms of the Internet economy. It's hard to imagine that such a discriminative practice was taken against women. We understand Didi's predicament. But in order to prevent potential risks, Didi has yet to come up with a good idea. So it tried to put a ban on women passengers, and after being bombarded by the public for this new rule, it then turned to banning the service for both women and men.
When Didi announced that its hitch carpooling service would be back after over a years' suspension, it attracted a lot of attention and debate about its new rule targeting women passengers. This actually shows that Didi's type of sharing economy is becoming a very important part of people's daily life, and that regular public transportation is still not able to satisfy public demand.
A change of policy has stirred up a lot of discussion and debate. The platform and the business behind it should learn something from this. It demonstrates the travel difficulties facing the vast majority of people and also their expectations of a hitch riding service like Didi's, which is convenient and relatively cheaper than ordinary taxis. Therefore, public service providers should not stand by at this moment. If the platform retreats from the service under pressure, how can the public's huge demand for transportation services be met? Thus, the debates triggered by Didi's new rule should make all sides think.
Both sides of the coin
Wang Zhongdi (report.hebei.com.cn): In most cities, 8 p.m. still falls into the category of rush hour, and some people have just left the office, including women. If Didi refuses to take women customers after 8 p.m., it will make transportation more inconvenient for them.
However, if Didi's new policy is labeled as "discriminating against women," it's going too far. Strictly speaking, discrimination means negative behaviors toward one or certain groups triggered by bias. If a woman is rejected by an employer even if she proves that she is capable of doing as well as a man, then this can be called discrimination. But this is not the case with Didi. Recently, there have been several crimes against young women and it's a reality that women on the whole are weaker than men in physical strength, which makes them more likely to face danger when encountering the same violent situations as men.
These debates boil down to the fact that different sides express views and opinions from their own perspective. Didi, one of the most typical examples of the sharing economy in China, aims to expand its business, while at the same time ensuring safety, and from there comes the ban on women passengers after 8 p.m. Meanwhile, passengers hope to travel more conveniently and cheaper, and feminists pay more attention to equality between women and men.
However, the consensus is that only by finding the best solution can Didi be steered to a healthy development path. In most cases, the so-called best solution is the least bad one. A relatively good system will take shape and settle down in the process of compromises from each side and the continuous adjustment of relevant rules.
Didi's ride-hailing business is still treading on water. It was hit by safety-related accidents more than a year ago, and it spent some time trying to fill the gaps. But no one can ensure that similar or even more terrible crimes will not occur. As a ride-hailing platform, it is necessary that Didi be cautious and careful, while users have to be cautious in taking the service and learn to cope with risks. On the one hand, users have the right to demand the platform adopt safety measures, and on the other hand, they have to tolerate and accept restrictions resulting from these safety-oriented measures.
It's necessary for the platform to listen to opinions from various sides. By allowing the public's participation in the formulating of rules, Didi is actually sharing risks with the public and will likely encounter less conflict.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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