Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing has announced the cancellation of its misguided plan to stop service to female passengers at 8:00 PM during the upcoming trial period of its resurrected Hitch carpooling service. Instead, both men and women will be subject to the same time restrictions. The controversial plan was designed for the trial return of Hitch services after the offering was suspended in the wake of two murders of female passengers at the hands of drivers last year.
The announcement of the original policy, which would have allowed men to use the service until 11:00 PM, while service to women would stop at 8:00 PM, spurred a torrent of online criticism over gender discrimination.
Didi has been under pressure to improve the safety of its female passengers. Last year, two separate murders of women using the app caused public outcry and sent the company into PR crisis mode: it issued apologies, sacked executives, created new safety features, and temporarily cut late-night services. China’s transportation ministry suspended the company’s Hitch carpooling service after conducting an investigation that concluded Didi had “lost control” of drivers.
China Explained: The Rise, Fall, and Uncertainty of Didi’s Ride-Hailing Dynasty
On Wednesday, Didi announced it had communicated with government regulators about a trial for resuming the Hitch carpooling service, likely meaning it had acquired official approval. The company explained their plan to curfew service to female drivers early, and was met with swift and severe backlash.
That policy was seen by many as a ham-fisted attempt to solve the problem of female safety by punishing women. “Why when it comes to preventing women getting hurt, must we depend on taking away their freedom,” wrote one netizen on the micro-blogging site Weibo. “Isn’t this just another way of hurting them?”
“Reducing accidents is good. But this logic is problematic,” wrote another commenter. “Today [women] are banned after 8:00 PM. Then I will be banned from going out alone. Then I will not wear short skirts. And then?”
Lipstick Messages, Bunny Massages, and Marathon Manicures: Sexist Stereotypes Hit Chinese Headlines
On Thursday, Didi reversed its gendered policy and said both men and women would be limited to the same hours of service. Its Hitch trial will begin on November 20 in the cities of Changzhou, Harbin, Shijiazhuang, and Taiyuan, and on November 29 in Beijing, Nantong, and Shenyang.
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam