The provision of safe spaces for women in the political sphere has become desperately important. The recent PTI rally on April 24, where women were harassed at the hands of unruly campaigners, is one such example. The attack, if it can be called that, was quite harrowing considering many women were pushed and shoved and even backed up against barbed wire. This has been a frequent occurrence in the past as well. Sometimes it’s the opposition that is spreading mischief, other times its male party workers creating havoc for no reason other than their own shallow gratification. Thus the PTI has decided baton-equipped women will be posted to protect female activists in public gatherings.

What happened in Lahore at the rally was tragic, not because it showed that a particular party cannot provide security at its rallies, but because it showcased the susceptibility of women in public spaces. These women were peaceful party workers, and there is absolutely no excuse for anyone to try to intimidate them or harass them. The PTI blamed the harassment on the PML-N while the ruling party made it clear that the PTI itself should be investigated.

The fact of the matter is that both parties have a rather cavalier attitude towards women’s rights and their protection. We can make all the laws we want, but until the male mindset is rehabilitated, these incidents will continue to happen. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah’s statement is symptomatic of this attitude where he said that, “If Imran can organise rallies, he should also provide security to women.” Women should not need to ask for security - their privacy and boundaries should be respected by men a priori.

A video from another rally shows a woman hysterically crying as she tries to protect herself from men around her. This kind of depravity must stop.