Small Step Toward Gender Equality: Mumbai First Indian City to Get Female Figures on Traffic Signals


Small Step Toward Gender Equality: Mumbai First Indian City to Get Female Figures on Traffic Signals

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Pedestrian road signs and signals in Mumbai’s G-Ward underwent a subtle makeover over the weekend. In the neighbourhoods of Mahim and Dadar, the signage has been modified to include a woman, replacing the green male stick figure that has been emblazoned on traffic signals since their inception. The move is a measure taken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as a step toward gender equality, by creating female representation in public spaces, which are often male-dominated in India’s towns and cities.

The news was shared on Twitter by Aaditya Thackeray, a cabinet minister in Maharashtra’s state government. In a thread, Thackeray thanked the BMC assistant commissioner Kiran Dighavkar and corporator Vishakha Raut for their efforts in making this small but significant change to Mumbai’s urban landscape.

The new female figures on traffic signals have only been installed along a small stretch, the neighbourhood is in the vicinity of Siddhivinayak Temple and Shivaji Park, in the middle of one of the city’s busiest areas. However, this move toward gender equality makes Mumbai the first Indian city to adopt such a measure.

Overseas, European countries like Germany, Switzerland, and Netherlands have taken similar steps by replacing the omnipresent male figures on traffic signs with female ones. Now, Mumbai joins cities like Geneva, Cologne, Vienna, and Melbourne in rewriting the status quo on public signage.

Of course, since this is the internet, there was bound to be some snark on display. While the move was mostly appreciated by commenters online, there were a few who felt like it was only paying lip service to the idea of gender equality, or that the authorities were making a big deal out of what was actually a very small step.

Regardless of the snide comments though, the change has been made and the new signals and signs can be seen by anyone passing through Dadar and Mahim.

While a change like this won’t directly improve the lot of women in Mumbai, it is still a positive and inclusive step that deserved the praise it received.