LAHORE - Ninety percent of women face harassment on public transport and 82 percent at bus stops, says a report.

“Most of women commuters attempt to downplay such incidents and do not report due to patriarchal socio-cultural patterns,” says the report titled “Safety Audit in Public Transport in Lahore”.

The most common types of sexual harassment at bus stops include staring, stalking, obscene gestures, whistling, passing sexual comments and touching, says the study conducted by the Aurat Foundation in cooperation with the Punjab Women’s Development Department and UN Women.

The report, compiled in collaboration with the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), CM’s Strategic Reform Unit and Punjab Safe City Project (PSCP), took up safety concerns of women and girls using public transport in Lahore.

Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Margaret Adamson was chief guest at the launch of the report at a hotel on Tuesday. UN Women Country Representative Jamshed M Kazi, Punjab Women Development Department Secretary Bushra Aman and Aurat Foundation’s Mumtaz Mughal were also present on the occasion.

Focusing on the services provided by the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) and Metro Bus, the report includes a detailed desk review, a perception study with 903 women commuters and 100 bus drivers and conductors, key informant interviews, safety walk evaluations at selected bus stops, and focus group discussions. The data shows an alarming situation about the safety of women on public transport.

According to the findings, the situation is contributing to existing restrictions on women’s mobility, limiting their opportunities to engage in economic activity, education and other aspects of a fulfilled life.

It adds: “There is limited use of travel cards by women as 79 percent of women passengers of Metro Bus do not possess these cards. Eighty-two percent of women commuters report facing harassment at bus stops, with higher rates at LTC bus stops compared to metro bus stations.

“There are significant safety concerns on buses and 90 percent of women report experiencing sexual harassment on buses, with a higher ratio on LTC buses. The main types of sexual harassment include passing sexual comments, staring, pushing and inappropriate touching.”

The report says: “The perpetrators are primarily fellow passengers. At least 62 percent of women state that they have been harassed by fellow passengers. This perception is confirmed by all Metro bus drivers and 97 percent of LTC bus drivers and conductors. Women also report being harassed by bus staff and by passers-by.

“Women and girls take limited action when they are harassed on public transport and 98 percent of respondents are unaware of existing emergency helplines or mobile phone apps to report sexual harassment. About 94.8 percent of women are unaware of such laws and 99 percent have no knowledge of Pakistan Penal Code Section 509, which deals specifically with sexual harassment. Similarly, 92 percent of LTC bus drivers and conductors are unaware of pro-women laws.”

The report maintains: “Women commuters residing in Mughalpura, Kot Lakhpat and Harbanspura perceived a higher security risk at these bus stops. Observers at Kot Lakhpat and Railway Station LTC bus stops did not find these locations safe. According to women commuters, bus drivers, conductors, key informants and focus group discussants, the police do not play their due role in addressing the sexual harassment of women on public transport. All bus stops, even the newly-built Metro bus stations, fail to make provisions for women commuters with special needs.

These include pregnant women, those with young children, women with disabilities and elderly women. Alarmingly, the entire public transport system does not address nor respond to the special needs of persons with disabilities. LTC bus stops are poorly managed, with inadequate lighting, missing benches, no signage, no dustbins, badly maintained overhead shades.”

The report suggested collecting sex-disaggregated data to effectively analyse the situation and address the issues to make infrastructure and the integrated transport network, women-friendly through gender sensitive planning.