Mobility is a pre-requisite for women’s empowerment but harassment at public places including streets, parks, markets, workplace and transport restricts women’s choices and movement towards development. Whereas, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Father of the Pakistani Nation said, “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless their women are side by side with them…It is crime against humanity that our women are shut up with in the four walls of the houses as prisoners”.
The Constitution of Pakistan (1973) guarantees freedom of movement to all its citizens irrespective of gender. Article: 15 Freedom of movement, states, “Every citizen shall have the right to remain in, and, subject, to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part thereof”. The dilemma remains that many female citizens do not enjoy the same freedom of movement and/or mobility as accorded to their male counterparts.
Islam lifted women’s status from the man-made discrimination and unjust dominance. Women were granted a just status in all spheres is life and their physical, psychological, financial and social needs were given due consideration. As a result, they were able to play an active and productive role in the uplifting and developing the newly-established Islamic State in Madinah by providing a range of different kinds of services to the community. The fundamental sources of Islam and literature review of Islamic historical texts illuminate their active social participation and mobility.
We see number of women and girls on roads marching towards a brighter future. Women in Pakistan are getting on their bikes in a bid to overcome the barriers that limit their mobility and ultimately widen economic and gender inequalities. Uber, Cream and Pink rickshaws are also increasing opportunities for women’s economic, social and political empowerment.
Women’s freedom of movement is a key indicator of gender empowerment and economic growth of the society. It is an indicator based … on whether and under what circumstances, how frequently and accompanied by whom, women are able to go out of the house to purchase major household items or clothing and visit friends and relatives” (Govindasamy and Malhotra 1996). Research has shown that freedom of movement is a far stronger proxy for mother’s autonomy, strength and empowerment as compared to education and employment of mothers (Govindasamy and Malhotra 1996).
Yet, social, cultural and psychological constructs and policy environment in our society stages an abusive mobility for women and girls in Pakistan. The issue of women’s ability to present them a as positive contributions has remained a long-standing subject in Pakistan because of the unsupported environment; despite being under huge economic pressures to earn a living, women remain a dead weight limited within four wall of the household.
Women, especially those in the lower income bracket, use local transport and are exposed to harassment at public spaces. The major mediums of transportation including rickshaw, vans, buses, coaches are decorated with offensive printed poster of women and young girls portraying them as an object for entertainment. Furthermore, audio/video music played in such means of transportation further shrinks women spaces in public. Whereas transport is supposed to play a facilitative role in securing livelihoods. Consequently, women are not culturally allowed to contribute in their own, family and society development. Improved quality of public spaces, safety measures and implementation of Pakistan Penal Code, Section 509 would inspire more women to enter work force.
Many school, college and university going girls are compelled to discontinue their education because of discouraging socio-cultural environment at public spaces including means or transport and bus stops.\
This Article is written by Tam Munir from Bahria University