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April 25, 2019

Unsafe transport


April 25, 2019

A recent survey by the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women has once again highlighted a fact we already knew about. Their report finds that lack of safe public transport is a main hindrance for women seeking to pursue education or employment. According to the study, 63 percent of women aged between 15 and 24 years surveyed in Punjab, said they had dropped out of education because of transport difficulties. Ninety-eight percent said they had never attended trainings due to transport issues. Similar reports have been published before. The harassment of women in public transport is a frequent problem. The PCSW also notes that these difficulties hinder the performance of women at the workplace or at their educational institutions. There is obviously a need to improve the situation. Measures such as separate seating for women do not appear to have worked, given the repeated reports of harassment, and resultant concerns within families which lead to women avoiding public transport.

The problem is one to which solutions need to be found. This is especially true in rural and semi urban areas where no public transport or very limited services are available. Over 50 percent of women in the most developed province have no access to bus or other services. Safe transport for women is a necessity if they are to obtain education, especially at the higher level, and find employment which can enable them to earn an income. Various solutions have been put forward in other countries. These include buses with female conductors and tougher penalties for men who do not follow rules. There are also other possibilities which should be considered. Recent steps which have empowered young women by enabling them to use bicycles or motorbikes are a positive step forward. Other solutions too need to be found. It should be safe for every woman in Pakistan to travel in a bus, train or other service. The fact that this is not the case is disturbing given the impact on their lives and the extent to which the lack of safety on the roads holds them back. The reality needs to be changed across the country and a new approach taken to making transport available to women.

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