LAHORE: Ninety percent women face harassment on public transport and 82 percent at bus stops.
Most of the women commuters attempt to downplay such incidents and do not report them due to patriarchal socio-cultural patterns that complaints will not be acted on, stated a report titled ‘Women's Safety Audit in Public Transport in Lahore’ conducted by Aurat Foundation.
The study was conducted by Aurat Foundation and co-led by the Women’s Development Department (WDD) Punjab and UN Women, in collaboration with the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), the Chief Minister’s Strategic Reform Unit and the Punjab Safe City Project (PSCP).
According to the report, the most common types of sexual harassment at bus stops include staring, stalking, obscene gestures, whistling, passing sexual comments, and touching.
The study assessed the safety concerns of women and girls using public transport in Lahore.
Focusing on the bus services provided by the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) and Metro Bus, it includes a detailed desk review, a perception study with 903 women commuters and 100 bus drivers and conductors, key informant interviews, safety walk evaluations at selected bus stops, and focus group discussions.
The data reveals an alarming situation regarding the safety of women on public transport.
According to the research, finding a situation contributing to existing restrictions on women’s mobility, limiting their opportunities to engage in economic activity, education and other aspects of a fulfilled life.
There is no sex-disaggregated data on women using public transport.
There is limited use of travel cards by women and 79 percent of women and girls traveling on the Metro bus service do not possess travel cards.
There are significant safety concerns at bus stops and 82 percent of women commuters report facing harassment at bus stops, with higher rates at LTC bus stops compared to Metro bus stations, targeting mainly younger women (20–29 years of age).
There are significant safety concerns on buses and 90 percent of women report experiencing sexual harassment on buses with a higher ratio on LTC buses.
The main types of sexual harassment include passing sexual comments, staring, pushing and inappropriate touching.
The perpetrators are primarily fellow passengers and 62 percent of women state that they have been harassed by fellow passengers; this perception is confirmed by all Metro bus drivers and 97 percent of LTC bus drivers and conductors.
Women also report being harassed by bus staff and passerbys. But both women and girls take limited action when they are harassed on public transport and 98 percent of respondents are unaware of existing emergency helplines or mobile phone apps to report sexual harassment.
About 94.8 percent of women are unaware of such laws and 99 percent have no knowledge of Pakistan Penal Code Section 509, which deals specifically with sexual harassment. Similarly, 92 percent of LTC bus drivers and conductors are unaware of pro-women laws.
Women commuters residing in Mughalpura, Kot Lakhpat and Harbanspura perceived a higher security risk at these bus stops. The observers at Kot Lakhpat Railway Station, LTC bus stops did not find these locations safe.
According to the women commuters, the police do not play their due role in addressing the sexual harassment of women on public transport.
All bus stops, even the newly-built Metro bus stations, fail to make provisions for women commuters with special needs.
These include pregnant women, those with young children, women with disabilities and elderly women.
Alarmingly, the entire public transport system neither addresses nor responds to the special need of people with disabilities.
The LTC bus stops are poorly managed, with inadequate lighting, missing benches, no signage, no dustbins, badly maintained overhead shades.
The report suggested that collecting sex-disaggregated data to effectively analyse and address the issues faced by women using public transport.
Furthermore, to make infrastructure and the integrated transport network women-friendly through gender sensitive planning.
The report was launched on Tuesday at local hotel in which Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Margaret Adamson was chief guest.
Country Representative UN Women Pakistan Jamshed M Kazi, Punjab Women Development Department Secretary Bushra Aman, United Nations Women Program Lead Violence Against Women, Governance & Human Right Aisha Mukhtar, Lead Researcher of report Women Safety Audit Dr Raana Mali and Resident Director, Aurat Foundation Mumtaz Mughal, were present on the occasion.