As a woman in Pakistan traveling on public transport is like running the gauntlet, except there is no where to run, particularly in Islamabad. For schoolgirls and working females the daily commute is plagued by vulgar drivers with the self-control of a rabble of rabid mutts.
The severity of this issue manifests itself in the inability for the female to remove herself from the situation. She is trapped in silence until she reaches her destination, acutely aware that she neither wants to make a scene nor raise attention to incidents like these.
Islamabad resident Faiza Bibi told Pakistan Today that the vast majority of drivers harass their female passengers verbally and physically by making lewd comments and touching them whilst changing gear as they sat they sat next to them in the front seats. She continued:
“Women have no other option since they have to sit on the front seats, next to the driver, because they are the only seats meant for women.”
Khadija Ali of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment told Pakistan Today that the country’s Sexual Harassment legislation applies mostly to situations occurring in the work place and suggested that women dealing with such incidences should complain to the police. However, one commuter, Attiya Nawaz complained to a traffic police officer that some bus drivers were pulling the curtain behind the front seats so that passengers in the back seats could not see them harassing the women.
According to a survey conducted by the Social Research and Development Organization, 92 percent of commuting women and girls would prefer female-only buses, a facility that does not exist. Despite government past plans to provide a women only public transport system, financial constraints have prevented the plans moving forward.
This report comes a day after a ZEENEWS.com story covering Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s address to a reception hosted by Commissioner Adam Thompson, where Khar told guests that women in Pakistan were “more empowered than those in other developing countries.” How can this be if they live in fear of travelling to school and work everyday? 92 percent is a staggering number that feel so frightened that they would rather have female only transport
So, we at Hollaback! want to encourage the Pakistan ladies to do exactly that! Do not accept this! We need a Hollaback! site in Pakistan to raise public awareness of street harassment and educate people about what behavior is acceptable on the streets and on public transport. I have messaged Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar about the situation and will keep you all posted on her comments. In the mean time if you know anyone with contacts in Islamabad that would like to launch a Hollaback! site then encourage them to do so! We all need to work together to Hollaback! at harassers on the streets of Pakistan and on public transport.