RAINBOW RIDES:  LGBT drivers in Mumbai are a clear sign of social acceptance
RAINBOW RIDES:  LGBT drivers in Mumbai are a clear sign of social acceptance

In a forward-thinking move for India’s commercial capital, Mumbai’s marginalised community of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens will soon be able to drive private taxis in the city.

300 members of the community will be involved in a project launched by Wings Travels  and community organisation Humsafar Trust, so that they can drive cabs in the city under the moniker ‘Wings Rainbow’. It is expected to expand nationwide and is the country’s first LGBT-powered radio cab service.

Pallav Patankar, director of programmes at Humsafar Trust in Mumbai told Reuters: “The LGBT community, especially transgenders, have very few economic opportunities because of the huge stigma that they still face.

“We hope that this will set the ball rolling and that it will open up other such opportunities for them.”

In April 2014, The Supreme Court of India recognised transgender as a legal third gender. A landmark judgment lauded by human rights groups called on the government to ensure their equal treatment. Before the ‘NALSA vs Union of India’ case, LGBT citizens were forced to write male or female against their gender.

Arun Kharat, the company’s founder and director told Reuters that Wings Travels can place about 1,500 LGBT drivers in its taxi fleet nationwide.

The travel and car rental company also operates a taxi service that employs retired army personnel and one with female drivers for women passengers.

Arun said: “Driving a taxi is a way for these marginalised people who may not get so many opportunities to gain respectability and independence.”

The Humsafar Trust is a community-based organisation of LGBT persons. It has been established in Mumbai since 1994.

The taxis, chauffeured by LGBT community members, are expected to start carrying out journeys in 2017.