Fewer women out in public today than 20 years ago

Women in Pakistan push back, and have a nice bike ride in the process.

Dozens of women in Pakistan took part in female-only bike races in major cities on Sunday, in an event organized to challenge male dominance of public spaces in the country.

“Our strategy is simply to be visible in public spaces,” said Meher Bano of Girls at Dhabas, a feminist group which organized the races after a woman from Lahore was pushed off her bicycle by a group of men last year for not responding to catcalls.

If she had responded she would have been attacked for being a whore.

The bike race was one of many events organized in the last few years by Girls at Dhabas – the name given to roadside restaurants in Pakistan – to promote female participation in public events, fight restrictions faced by women in public places and increase awareness.

“I drive on these roads all the time but this was maybe the first time I got to experience them while biking,” said Humay Waseem, one of the riders on the 5-kilometre race around Pakistan’s leafy capital Islamabad.

“I loved the feeling of freedom with the breeze in my hair.”

It’s a good feeling.

Though there is a small but vocal liberal movement in Pakistan, most noticeable in sections of the media, women who push feminist ideals often face a barrage of abuse and are portrayed as being infected with Western or un-Islamic ideals.

After the race in Islamabad on Sunday, the riders, mostly aged in their 20s, swapped stories about being gawped at or catcalled when they go out. They also talked of the need to fight growing conservatism on Pakistan’s streets, saying there are fewer women out in public today than 20 years ago.

“We are letting that space go and society is getting more narrow-minded,” said one of riders.

That’s happening in a lot of places.

One Response to “Fewer women out in public today than 20 years ago”