TRAVELING ON MOTORBIKES IS BLISS FOR WOMEN COMPARED TO TRAVELING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT !
Pakistani women have continued to succeed in various fields despite facing several challenges like sexual harassment, forced marriages and honor killings. Living in Lahore for past several years I have seen hundreds of women beating men in attaining high offices and securing better jobs. Despite all their contribution for the betterment of our society, a pervasive misogyny is prominent on roads where men can often decide and harass women drivers. A specific class of men is living with an aim to suppress the women in our society. They do writings, public speaking and other activities including the active use of social media.
I have rarely seen women driving bikes in Lahore but unfortunately we see men and their eve teasing while standing on footpaths and traveling in cars and even taking pictures which later go viral on the social media. What a shame!
The women’s are on to the streets of Lahore on motorcycles after training with a collaborative team from the Special Monitoring Unit on Law and Order (SMU) and City Traffic Police. The two departments had worked together to train these females at Lahore.
The chief minister should be commended for being a front runner in this aspect with both the Pink Bus Service and the Pink Rickshaw Scheme. Although the Pink Bus Service never made it past its three-month pilot period, it represented an attempt in challenging the private-public gendered divide by providing an entire bus for the female population rather than just one small portion.
The Pink Rickshaw Scheme, launched by the Environment Protection Fund, furthered the movement as it was meant to provide rickshaws to female drivers at installments in order to provide women with a safer option for themselves and their families. These measures, along with the WoW rally, depict that a shift towards female mobility is in place.
However, there are still those who question it and have spoken against the endeavour, saying that women should not be seen driving scooters. They are arguing that attempts should be made to increase opportunities in areas of low literacy so that females do not have the need to travel far.
These arguments are flawed because they are built upon society’s archaic gender roles.
Why must female mobility be limited to her domestic vicinity?
Why do women have to be tied down to their household bounds?
Projects such as WoW legitimize a female’s presence in the public space and decrease her reliance on the male figure. Women shouldn’t have to depend on their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons to be able to move around in the city. The right to free movement, for now, has only been awarded to men. Things, however, have started to change. The strong support for the rally is definitely a positive sign.
While I am absolutely in awe of the progress that this initiative has made in moulding public opinion and opening up our roads and streets to women, I can’t help but worry that this event might only be celebrated for its singular and collective nature. It’s easier to applaud 150 women out on the roads with dignitaries and media personnel. What will the roads be like for a single woman out on a motorcycle? Will she get heckled and harassed? Or have we truly moved past our prejudiced, gendered notions of movement?
I, sincerely, hope that we have.
Hundreds of hardworking women who quit their jobs due to long routes and transportation issues can continue their work with the same determination.
The specific class of people who are against the women driving bikes will surely undermine this initiative by government but they should see women going through the struggle while traveling in local transports like vans, public rickshaws and local transport buses. Traveling on motorbikes is bliss for women compared to traveling on local transport.
I hope that there will be a time when a woman riding a motorcycle would not be met with jeers, taunts and disapproval, but a cursory glance and a shrug in acceptance.