“Is Lahore safe?” “Can females travel alone in Lahore?” “Is it safe for women to travel in Lahore?” “Can solo female travelers visit Lahore?”

As one of the few women who travel solo in Lahore and around the country, I get asked how I feel comfortable doing so. There aren’t many people traveling to Pakistan in general, and most of those who do are men. As every woman, not only in Pakistan but everywhere in the world, I have faced street harassment by men from time to time. The society has made it a norm to tolerate and overcome this harassment on their own for the women. But, isn’t that where the problem actually begins? When we won’t consider the psychological, physical, cyber, workplace and any other harassments as evils being done to women by not only men around us but also women being their encouragers, that is when we won’t ever come near to finding the solutions to this problem.

Lahore is Pakistan’s second-largest city, considered around the world to be the country’s cultural capital. It’s also considered to be much safer than most other cities in the country. Pakistan is brilliant, and more travelling ladies should visit. I would encourage more and more women to become independent and carry out all their daily activities themselves. The feeling of being completely independent is immeasurable and gives one great confidence. Although, it only takes one single incident to bring all that freedom and happiness down. To traumatize someone so much that one does not even want to get out of the house. The hesitance females have of going about in Pakistan doesn’t come out of nowhere: on top of having a very conservative culture that draws strong distinctions between what men can do and what women can do, Pakistan has been plagued by patriarchy.

The Women’s Safety Audit in Public Transport in Lahore by the United Nations, assessed the safety concerns of women and girls using public transport in the city. It identified factors that may increase the chances of violence against women and girls at bus stops and on buses. The data revealed an alarming situation regarding the safety of women on public transport, contributing to the existing restrictions on women’s mobility, limiting their opportunities to engage in economic activity, education and other aspects of a fulfilled life. Lack of adequate infrastructure and security arrangements, not having a gender-neutral approach by administrators and policymakers, social attitudes towards women and girls, and a lack of awareness among the general population about the impacts of sexual harassment on women’s and girl’s lives, are some of the major reasons why the gender continues to be disregarded and mistreated by majority of the men in the society. The dramatic levels of harassment in public places have gone unnoticed and perhaps have increased overtime due to this reason. We, the women tend to stay quiet even at the slightest of inconveniences such as inappropriate staring and similarly other offences.

Despite existing laws for the protection of women, they are being constrained, maimed, stabbed, and thrashed. Unfortunately, it is a painful truth that Pakistan is governed under misogynistic and patriarchal urges and is unable to protect its females. In the last couple of months, a UK-based Pakistani citizen was brutally killed in Lahore. It was found that she was allegedly murdered by her husband and her children saw how ruthlessly their mother was beaten to death. Her younger daughter said that she used music to mute the noises of the torture and maim but she along with her younger siblings heard everything even the last dying breaths of her mother. It was a heartbreaking moment when the alleged murderer left children alone with the corpse of their mother.

Earlier this week, a woman lawyer narrowly escaped a kidnapping bid, in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) by two armed men, who took away her car and valuables. The security footage went viral on social media and the case was registered against the unidentified criminals on the complaint of Advocate Saira Malik the same day. Two armed men took the lawyer hostage when she was sitting in the driving seat of her car in a DHA street, blindfolded her and drove away in the broad daylight. The lawyer, however, managed to dodge the criminals and jumped out of the car when it slowed down in a traffic congestion, shortly after the incident. The criminals drove the car away, along with her laptop, cash and other valuables.

As mentioned before, street harassment is nothing new for me, but a recent incident that prompted me to write this article is being followed from my workplace to my home in such a creepy and scary way that scared me. The perpetrator didn’t even try to be subtle about it and gave me a sense of anxiety for some time. I am stilled a bit shocked about the incident and I am being extra careful while going out.

But it saddens me deeply that I cannot even breathe freely just because I am woman. Before stepping out of my home, I have to keep in mind so many things. I envy men, who just get to go out and enjoy at any time of the day (and night). We, the women, can only dream of living in such an environment. But, who is going to do something about it? No one is going to come and hand us over a safe environment with respect for women and their space. I can list a number of ways by which women can keep themselves safe from all the predators but that is not going to change the environment. It is high time that we work to create a world where the women of our future generation will not have to worry about all these miscreants of our existing world.

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