SINCE electing its first left-wing mayor in 1997, Mexico City has been a self-consciously liberal oasis in a conservative country. The current mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, has legalised abortion on demand, gay marriage and gay adoption in his first four years in office. His latest move, cheered by environmentalists, was a ban on free plastic shopping bags, implemented on August 19th. Eye-catching reforms such as these are enhancing Mr Ebrard’s profile ahead of a likely presidential bid in two years’ time.
The latest controversy concerns women-only public transport. During rush hour, men have long been barred from a third of the carriages of metro trains. Some see that as offering a blessed sanctuary from wandering macho hands; for others it is a backward step on the march to equality. But whereas Puebla, a nearby city of more conservative bent, runs a women-only “pink taxi” service (pictured above), Mexico City had resisted. Susana Sánchez, a Mexico City taxista, first requested permission to run such a service in 1998. She was told it would be discriminatory.
City officials have now come round to thinking that cabs for women would be safer for both passengers and drivers (Ms Sánchez began her crusade after being stabbed by a male client). From next month, a fleet of pink taxis driven by and for women will roam the streets of the capital, charging the same fares as ordinary cabs. The city government is training a first batch of approved drivers in security and women’s rights.
The suburban railway and buses have followed the metro in providing women-only services. Victor Ramírez, a transport official, says he is now fielding requests to segregate the pesero microbuses which rattle around town.