Why public transport has become a magnet for sexual harassment?
If she is a woman, she commutes through public transport; she travels alone, so she is open for harassment, at least this is what some men think.
A female student from Punjab University once told me her painful story about how, while commuting through a Chingchi rickshaw, someone first verbally harassed her then it turned physical but she had to endure it and stay silent because she was alone, and her fellow travelers were ignorant of the fact.
Sexual harassment is so common in public transport that it hardly needs evidence.
Similarly, many female victims choose to remain silent for the sake of their education as they are unable to even share it with their family members, as the only way their families can afford sending them to university is through these cheap Chingchi rickshaws.
These rickshaw owners do a lot of business in Lahore specially in areas where colleges and universities are located as a huge majority of students belonging to the underprivileged classes use these rickshaws to commute. You can see many Chingchi rickshaws moving from walled city to outskirts of Lahore: from southern Lahore to central Lahore.
Interestingly, these rickshaws are banned in posh areas. You will not find any Chingchi on the roads of posh localities.
Unfortunately, young female students and many working women become the victim of routine sexual harassment on these vehicles.
Chingchi riders overload the vehicle with both men and women and it does not move unless the seats are burdened with passengers.
Usually, women are forced to be seated with strange men or otherwise they can choose to leave and use another vehicle, because these Chingchi drivers want their vehicle filled no matter if a woman gets harassed.
Male passengers, unaware of social norms and morals, take full advantage of the situation and harass women both verbally and physically.
Sadly, harassment of women in public is common on the streets and roads and it is experienced by almost every female irrespective of her age and dress.
Majority of females in Pakistan wear long chadars or abaya (veil) to cover themselves while traveling on local transport to avoid catcalling, abuse and annoying gestures. Still, they easily become victim of street harassment and unwarranted comments.
Today, Pakistan has been doing a lot to become a social welfare state and achieve 2030 Sustainable Development Goals but the issue of violence and harassment against women persists despite legislation primarily because we, as a society, want to somehow ‘cover’ this issue rather than expose it.
The cries of helpless women remain unheard, harrowing stories of sexual abuse keep appearing on news channels and sometimes harassment is not even considered harassment and women are advised to “ignore” it.
Women mortification and insecurity on streets, is a pertinent issue to resolve.
A woman, whether she is in a school or on the road or in her own house, must be protected as feeling safe and being respected is her fundamental right like all other human beings.
Needless to say that the government must take some action but what women, mostly students need is a separate; cheap and safe public transport service for women.