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
Sharon Behn
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.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid