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India’s first LGBTI taxi service launched

India’s first LGBTI taxi service launched

The Rainbow Wings initiative hopes to empower the LGBTI community by providing a dignified livelihood.

India’s first LGBTI taxi service was launched Wednesday (20 January) in Mumbai.

The Rainbow Wings initiative, by Wings Travels and the Humsafar Trust, hopes to empower members of the often marginalized community by providing a dignified livelihood.

Under the pilot program, three transgender women and two gay men will undergo etiquette training in the nine to 12 months it takes to obtain a driving license.

The service is expected to start fully functioning in 2017.

The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill is currently before parliament, but transgender women are often denied jobs and forced into begging or sex work. And those lucky enough to find employment often report discrimination in the workplace.

‘Transgenders are often told to go and do some work but opportunities are few and far between,’ Pallav Patankar of Humsafar Trust told the Mid Day newspaper.

‘Inclusiveness and changing mindsets remain mere intellectualizations, if we do not change the situation on the ground.’

According to Arun Kharat, founder of Wings Travels, the LGBTI chauffeurs will earn Rs15,000 ($220.64; €202.30) per month under the scheme and Rs4,000 ($58.84; €53.95) is being spent per head on training.

Wings Travels operates 5,500 taxis in nine cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, and Chandigarh.

‘While the first five are trained, we will continue enrollment from the LGBT community up to 1,500 people across all nine cities,’ Kharat told The Hindu newspaper.

‘We want them to be eventual entrepreneurs and own these vehicles,’ he added.

‘We want to ensure that the LGBT community in India enjoys the same rights and livelihood opportunities in India as their counterparts in the West.’