News / Asia

Pakistan Women Decry Lack of Safe Public Transport

Daily Commute Another Challenge for Pakistan's Working Womeni
X
January 29, 2013
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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid