Gender Equality: Mumbai now has female figures on traffic lights and sign boards
Photo: Aaditya Thackeray/Twitter

In a bid to push gender equality and curb `unconscious gender bias’, Mumbai will become the first city in India to replace male figures or silhouettes on traffic signal lights and road signage to female ones. As part of its Cultural Pathway or Cultural Spine project, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will make the changes to 240 traffic signal lights as well as pedestrian crossing signage at 13 junctions between Dadar and Mahim.

While the change has already been made at a few traffic signals and pedestrian crossings, it will be carried out at all signals between Dadar and Mahim by Monday.Assistant Municipal Commissioner of G North ward (Dadar, Mahim, Dharavi) Kiran Dighavkar said gender inequalities have been internalised by people in their daily lives. “The traffic signal posts, and road signage are one example of this unconscious bias. One doesn’t even take a note of the gender of the sign, but in subtle ways the ‘man’ becomes the representation for everything around us. It is our contribution, to create awareness towards this unconscious bias and gender stereotypes that exist in our society,” Dighavkar said.In January this year, Geneva in Switzerland replaced male figures in half of the city's road signage with female figures. Some German cities, including Zwickau, Dresden, and Cologne, feature female as well as male figures on traffic lights at pedestrian crossings since 2009.

The city of Amersfoort in Netherland introduced its iconic ponytailed female traffic light figure, named “Sofie,” back in 2000. Vienna installed traffic lights featuring same-sex couples ahead of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015, which is intact even today. The Austrian city of Linz then followed Vienna’s lead. Melbourne in Australia too introduced women figurines on traffic lights in 2017, however the move then was criticised by many.

Dighavkar added, "Mumbai becomes the first city in India to take up such an initiative. With this small gesture we aim to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”State environment and tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray took to Twitter to laud Dighavkar and the entire team of G north ward for the initiative. He tweeted: " If you've passed by Dadar, you'd see something that will make you feel proud. G north ward is ensuring gender equality with a simple idea - the signal now has women too."

BMC’s G North ward is creating a 4.5-km cultural pathway or cultural spine of Mumbai from Mahim to Dadar, connecting four religious places — St Michael’s Church, Mahim Dargah, Chaitya Bhoomi at Shivaji Park and the Siddhivinayak temple at Prabhadevi. As part of this project, the civic body is beautifying the footpaths and BEST bus stops along the stretch.

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