There are so many areas in Pakistan that need serious looking into and effective changes to take place immediately. There are overwhelming issues like education and health that have been grossly neglected but so many invisible ones that do not get talked about, where only those involved are suffering.

A friend of mine lives in a girls’ hostel in Islamabad. Expected to be a safe place for girls who live far away from families, this hostel, like many other hostels, makes them feel unsafe amongst other issues.

After some on-ground research what I found, to say that it left me horrified is an understatement. Most hostels charge around fifteen thousand per month including below-average food and amenities, which doesn’t cover air conditioning. The rooms are shared by 3 to 5 girls and are in deplorable condition to say the least. There is fungus on most of the walls, poor ventilation and broken furniture and dilapidated room conditions. The bathrooms are dirty and overall hygiene is poor, yet in spite of protests from the girls, not much changes.

In many cases, there is a single warden who is the caretaker, enforcing rules like a curfew for girls to be back by 10pm.

Most of these girls were all willing to compromise with these issues but the main and most alarming problem is the lack of safety.

The owner of this particular hostel, a young man, has his office in the hostel, and all day, men can come and go as they please, harassing these girls with their unwarranted leers, trying to initiate conversation with them. The owner himself had asked a few of them to be friends with him, making threats otherwise and creating hostile conditions for those who protest.

Who will protect girls who come from smaller cities with dreams of better lives and professional opportunities? Whose responsibility is to hold these hostel owners accountable for treating these young women in this way? Most of them experience sexual harassment of some form every now and then.

They live with this insecurity of their ‘izzat’ being threatened day in and out, as they step out of their homes for education and jobs but to come back to these hostels and feel even more unsafe, which is downright criminal.

Unlike the popular belief that the floor wardens are there to protect the girls; they seem to be involved in this process of harassment too. These girls are also emotionally abused by being asked to show their phone messages or interrogated about their comings and goings by threatening them of false stories to be shared with their families.

These girls feeling indebted to their families for allowing them this little pocket of freedom – which is actually their right – live in this trauma day in and out, paying a price for a better future.

Isn’t it the job of the local government to look into this and create safer living conditions for these young women? What breaks my heart is that these educated girls are not even aware of their rights and are scared to protest against this. When I asked my friend, she said she will be sent back so she doesn’t want to take this risk.

There are always anti-feminist slogans raised by our men for feminists having extreme views, but being a female in this society can be a living nightmare. From an ogling gaze to a random sexual touch to being explicitly asked for more, I wonder if the men of our society understand what happens for that woman. So many women are desensitised and ashamed of their bodies. They start taking less care of it, demonstrate less body maintenance and protection and the harassment still doesn’t stop.

In my own experience, on a rare occasion, when I decided to take an Uber around 10 at night, I was literally pushed into a car with 4 men and luckily managed to get away. That day I realised how vulnerable and exposed our women are using public transport.

In this case, the home these girls live in is unsafe with no way of protecting themselves.

I hope someone can take serious notice of this. As citizens of this country we cannot and should not turn a blind eye to any injustice. Sometimes, small changes in invisible areas can go a long way too. It’s eighty percent now and hundred percent never so let’s do whatever we can to highlight these issues.

To all the men out there who are reading this; stand up for the vulnerable woman on the road by stopping the male next to you who looks at her with disrespect or crosses any boundary. And if you can’t, then think twice before questioning why radical feminism is the need of the hour.