In December 2019, Uber, the transportation company, officially released its first ever safety report, covering the periods from 2017 to 2019. In the report, there were 5,981 instances of sexual assault included in the document. The  company reported 3,045 instances of sexual assaults in 2018, including everything from nonconsensual kissing to nonconsensual sexual penetration.

Although the instances of sexual assault appear to be high, the number is covered over 1.3 billion rides which would represent 0.0002% of cases.

It may seem like a small percentage one would say but even one report of a sexual assault is one too many .

Unfortunately, the report only focused on the US market. In Ghana, there are a couple of transportation companies operating in Ghana including Accra and Kumasi. Some of these include Uber, Bolt, Yango, Dropyn and other local transport companies.

But Uber in the US is so far is the only the service to have released a report on sexual harassment and assault.

So what's the data on safety in Ghana, especially for female riders? What does the picture of sexual harassment on ride sharing apps look like?

Current Safety Features On Ride Sharing Platforms

Ride sharing platforms like Uber, have over the years, built in safety features which protect both the rider and driver.

All Uber riders undergo a background check by the local authorities to confirm any past criminal records. The same is assumed to be done for the other ride sharing platforms. (But we can't confirm that)

Uber and Bolt both have the ability for the ride to send messages to the support team for any incidence during the trip.

911 Assistance call for US Uber - Image Credit: Uber

Uber doesn't disclose how disciplinary actions are handed for drivers who misbehave but the company has stated that it has a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment.

But despite background checks and a zero tolerance policy, are ride sharing companies going further to teach their riders about "consent" and "inappropriate behavior" with riders?

Sexual Harassment Awareness Training For Drivers

In most workplaces in the US, employees are given harassment training and taught to respect co-workers and their personal spaces. Ride Sharing drivers in the past have reportedly engaged in physical touching an unwanted advances during trips and also contacting riders with inappropriate messages they drop off riders.

Uber has pledged more training in the US and has expanded efforts to Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, and Colombia.

But there is no current update on Ghana and other African countries for inclusion in programmes on the company's website. The transportation company, Bolt, also doesn't appear to speak about sexual harassment training. Same can be said for the other ride apps.

The question is whether ride sharing platforms should place an emphasis on sexually harassment training for drivers. And frankly, maybe they should.

What Do Ride Sharing Platforms Need To Do To Make Riders Feel Safe

In Ghana, the environment is considered to be "male dominated" and many have said the country has a perceived (or rather real) "rape-culture" where instances of sexual abuse and sex assault are sometimes trivialised.

The best that transport apps can do is to keep improving safety features. Even match matching apps like Tinder are working on implementing a panic button for dangerous situations. That's a feature a ride sharing app can implement or make a big feature.

Training for drivers is also key. Although ride sharing drivers aren't necessarily "employees" of the companies, transport apps incorporate resources and time in educating drivers on consent and inappropriate behavior, would show a step in the right direction for ride safety.

In the end, society itself would have to make an effort to reduce rape culture but doesn't mean ride sharing apps can't take the first step in making trips a bit safer.

Feature image credit: Bloomberg