Two-thirds of Pakistan’s urban population resides in its ten largest cities, making it one of the most urbanized countries in the world and the most urbanized in Asia-Pacific. On organizational and functional fronts, the country has been undergoing random changes in urban localities, which, on the one hand, creates obstacles for the survival of the poor and, on the other hand, causes the poor to experience overcrowding, urban poverty, and inaccessibility to essential services.

With a lower average salary, only the wealthy can afford private vehicles for mobility, and most rely on public transportation for work-related travel. Recognizing that the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, and women are the most adversely affected, these themes rapidly permeate Pakistan’s public and academic discourse. Consequently, designing an inclusive transportation system that offers reasonably priced, environmentally friendly, and culturally sensitive transportation amenities is obligatory.

Research identifies security as complex since it depends on unpredictable and emotional rather than rational human interactions. On the other hand, safety can be ensured through technical solutions, but improving the safety system does not necessarily imply improving the security system. Furthermore, as different individuals define ‘what is safe?’ and ‘what is secure?’ differently, security is more subjective.

Social life in South Asia is characterized by a traditional patriarchal family structure in which men are breadwinners and household authorities. At the same time, women are homemakers and have lower levels of power and autonomy. In the aforementioned sociocultural context, female mobility is closely tied to the social code of honour. Travel is regarded as a potentially dangerous activity for women because it can result in unwanted interactions with men and loss of honour.

Variations in the impression of security vary between men and women, and even among women, due to economic background, age, race, education, and cultural contexts. In terms of human security, female mobility is likewise constrained by the violence and harassment women suffer in public settings and public transportation. The number of harassment complaints and the various forms it takes indicate that name-calling, teasing, staring, touching, groping, etc., are prevalent in the public transport that women use to get to and from school and work.

All developing nations report several harassment incidents and the sorts of harassment women to suffer in public settings and public transportation. In Pakistan, social norms and safety concerns limit women’s mobility outside the home.

Specifically, social norms prohibiting women from having close contact with unrelated men, as well as the discomfort, social stigma, and fear of harassment when this occurs, restrict women’s mobility and usage of public transportation. This limits their options to enter the workforce, finish schooling, or engage in other independent activities.

The government has attempted to address women’s concerns by providing segregated bus sections and women-only buses through its transportation policy. However, there are still obstacles to ensuring the safety and comfort of women on public transportation. Similarly to males, women encounter unique challenges while attempting to access public transport. They face safety risks while walking to public transit, waiting at stops, and travelling in vehicles.

Despite increasing urbanization, many cities in developing nations have a deficient public transportation network, which can increase travel costs to employment opportunities, especially for poorer households and peri-urban areas. Theoretically, a well-connected citywide public transportation network can contribute to economic development by reducing transportation costs and travel time, as well as facilitating the activities of firms and workers. 

Frequently, inadequate public transportation disproportionately affects women, and limited mobility may impede women’s empowerment. If social taboos or security concerns prevent women from easily accessing the network, their ability to decide whether and how to work outside the home may be constrained. Inadequate access to public transportation may also impede their mobility for other purposes, such as accessing public services or participating in social and civic activities. Despite a number of nations implementing women-only transportation services, little is known about women’s use of public transportation or the effects of women-only transport services. Investing in public transportation networks may increase access to employment opportunities, and investments explicitly geared toward women may encourage mobility among women.

In Pakistan, social and safety considerations further restrict women’s mobility options. For example, women are usually prohibited from riding bicycles or motorcycles, operating rickshaws alone, or travelling in overcrowded public vehicles. In response, the government introduced women-only services on two bus routes and constructed separate compartments for women on other major buses. However, separating genders within smaller vehicles, or wagons, serving less dense areas is currently not feasible, so wagons remain mixed-gender on many routes.

Expanding networks of public transportation can help tackle these issues. Prioritize high-quality services and less crowding. Fix and publicize a schedule for all services and collaborate with operators to maintain schedule consistency. In addition to enhancing the convenience and value of the system for all passengers, this would decrease wait periods, during which women frequently feel unsafe and are susceptible to harassment. If women-only services are utilized, the service design should be enhanced to maximize cost-effectiveness. Utilize compact, fuel-efficient automobiles that can recoup their expenditures. Run them on routes where there is car congestion and no big bus with a distinct section, as this is where women suffer the most obstacles. Construct sidewalks, provide street lighting, and offer police presence near public transportation routes and stops. Public transportation alone is insufficient. Women must feel comfortable in public and travelling to and from stops.


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