Thu. Feb 9th, 2023

Is public transport safe for women in Gilgit-Baltistan?

By: Saarah Baig

Harassment and physical abuse are preventing women around the world from being able to use public transportation safely. The inability to safely take public transit can limit women’s lives and their livelihoods. Ensuring women are part of decision-making is the key, but unfortunately gender has not been part of the way we have been thinking about transport.

Harassment in Suzki (s) now has been a common problem for women in Northern Pakistan (A socially and politically deprived region). Most of the women in the Gilgit city are working in many types of organizations and they need to travel in public transport if don’t own private vehicles. Similarly, school going girls and college and universities going female students off and on go their institutions by using public transports like rented cars, taxi (s) and suzki (s).

However, the women and female students have long been complaining about the harassment and abuse in such vehicles, while traveling in one place to another. Most of the time they’re accompanied by at least one family member (i.e. brother, father, cousin or spouse), but it’s not always possible. They complained that some male passengers’ behavior to women is uncomfortable. Some time they sit on the women’s reserved seat without any hesitation and don’t give them place even upon request, due to which they’ve to stay longer at the unspecified stops where women sometimes might not be harassed physically but verbal harassment and male gaze on roads often leave them in an embarrassing situation.

Most of the girls’ complain that male drivers try to harass them by staring, touching intentionally. Sometimes they try to come closer as if they did it by mistake while handling gear during driving. This’s nothing less than to be humiliated physically. Some women raise their voice and some remain quiet. Experiencing abuse and harassment on the transit system can cause women to change their routes to take alternative transportation options that may be less convenient, take longer or are more costly, and on the extreme end, they may leave jobs or school if public transport is their only option and they are tired of or scared from the harassment they face.

In short, there’s a need to call on the governments, private sector, financial institutions and donors to put more money into transport and recognize its potential and develop & adopt policies attempting to tackle the harassment epidemics. Though, women suggest women-only buses for them in order to protect themselves from being humiliated.

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