The gang-rape that occurred on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway caused outrage across the country, yet it is in no way a unique case. Hundreds of similar horrifying instances occur every month; just in September, we have witnessed an alarming number of rape cases reported, with even more going unreported. Just yesterday, a young woman was allegedly gang-raped by six men in Lahore, at Jaranwala Road.

It is clear that things cannot keep going on like this, that public spaces are widely unsafe for women, and the government needs to step up and protect 50 percent of its population. To make the country safer for women, the government needs not just to enact harsher punishments, but also to work on prevention of the crime. The problem starts when authority figures view prevention in terms of limiting women’s movements, as we have learnt all too unfortunately by the CCPO’s misguided remarks, rather than on working on effective government response systems.

Fortunately, driven by the backlash to the comments, the government has taken notice and is working on more helpful avenues. With context to the motorway rape case, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday directed the PM Delivery Unit to set up a national emergency helpline for the assistance of people.

Delay and confusion in response by the authorities was a huge reason behind the motorway rape case. Having a definite national helpline number which guarantees response is of utmost importance. Yet so far, the details are vague and it has not been revealed how this national helpline will be any different from the other helplines, which failed for the victim in this case. The functionality of this helpline is what will make it a success or an abject failure.

This initiative needs to be effective and not just lip-service. The problem with helplines is that they are often riddled with the confusion of jurisdiction and re-routing. Will this national helpline automatically reroute to the police, will it have access to the rescue vehicles, which come under the Frontier Works Organisation? These are the issues which the government needs to look into, if it intends to actually work on preventing cases of sexual violence.