News / Asia

    Pakistan Women Decry Lack of Safe Public Transport

    Daily Commute Another Challenge for Pakistan's Working Womeni
    X
    January 29, 2013 6:56 PM
    The International Labor Organization says barely one-fifth of the women in Pakistan work in paid jobs. Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad that the lack of safe and secure public transport is one of the reasons even educated women are unable to work and break out of a cycle of grinding poverty
    Barely one-fifth of Pakistan's women work in paid jobs, according to the International Labor Organization. The group says a lack of safe, secure public transportation is one of the reasons even skilled and educated women are unable to break out of a cycle of grinding poverty.

    Covered in the traditional headscarf as she waits in Islamabad's crowded Abpara market, nurse Farzana Liaqat says women don't feel safe using public local buses, and often have to wait hours for a seat.

    In Pakistan, typically the two front seats next to the driver are reserved for women. The rest of the bus is for the men.

    Syed Saad Gilani, who has studied the question of decent public transport for women for the ILO, says women complain of being inappropriately touched, pushed and humiliated on buses.

    Farzana Liaqat says there's not much women can do about getting harassed.

    “Neither the police nor the driver can protect women,” she said. “These days the police can't protect anyone, there is corruption, terrorism; women don't have any protection, they are not secure at all, they have to protect themselves.

    Harassment on buses is just one aspect of the gender discrimination women face in Pakistan. Outside of the wealthy, women often face discrimination at home, on the streets, in public spaces and at the work place, says Gilani.

    As a result, many poor and middle class women just stay home. That means, Gilani says, that “out of 100, only one woman in Pakistan is getting a formal job which is fully covered and fully secured.”

    Despite gains in the job sector, women still only represent about 20 percent of the labor force - and most of those women are unpaid family workers in agriculture.

    Pakistan's government has passed a series of laws to protect women, including a law against sexual harassment. But public awareness of the law is low.

    Men like Iftikhar Ehmud, a local shopkeeper in a village just outside Islamabad, say it's a big effort to send women to school or to work.

    "If I send my female relatives for education or for work in a hospital then it takes two people to get her there, because I have to accompany her up to the bus in which she is traveling and then I have to talk to the bus driver to make sure he drops her off safely at her destination," he explained.

    Farzana Bari, a professor of gender studies at Qaid-e-Azzim University in Islamabad, says it is a question of changing an entire mindset and criminalizing behaviors against women.

    "I think we are failing sort of at both levels,” she says. “We haven't been able to change people's mindset because we fail to provide education, we fail to give them a sufficient level of exposure so the people should know, and we fail to even provide conditions where women themselves can be empowered enough to protect themselves against all kinds of cultural and traditional violence.”

    Bari adds that her graduate students who speak out against gender discrimination often are treated as misfits.

    “They say when they talk about it, their family rejects them, their friends reject them, and say ‘what are you talking about?’" she said.

    Bus drivers say they are not able to push men out of their seats to accommodate women in a way that is acceptable to Pakistan's conservative society. Faced with rising fuel costs, they also argue that starting women-only bus runs is just not financially viable.

    So even though the government is passing protective legislation, and more women in Pakistan are getting educated and gaining skills, many still face considerable challenges trying to earn their way into a better life.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mohammad Safa from: Dhaka
    January 29, 2013 11:26 PM
    Should be take care all woman.
    In Response

    by: Nadeem Khan from: Pakistan
    February 02, 2013 3:04 AM
    Take Care All Women

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora