The heinous motorway incident—where a woman was gang-raped in front of her children when her car stalled on the Lahore-Sialkot highway at night—has ripped the bandaid off a wound festered with gender violence, misogyny and oppressive social structures.
Women have now had enough of archaic paternalistic attitudes that plague every stratum and every institution of our society.
Recently, a woman approached a government office in Karachi to procure a car/bike license, which was a cost-effective transport option for her—but was not only given a blunt refusal but also harshly told off; the reason being, women were not "allowed" those licenses.
Taking to her social media, Shireen Ferozepurwalla, said, "Got bike riding classes last month. Was literally so relieved to be able to ride a bike. You see, I can’t really afford a car right now and with the surging rates of other transport services, it was getting a little difficult for me to stay within my budget. Imagine paying 600PKR (Sometimes even 900PKR at peak times) for a one-way ride of 7.3km. That is roughly 1200PKR every single day (to and from office)."
According to her, all was going well while the man behind the counter entered her details into the system. When she reminded him that she also needed a motorbike license, the man "lost it" and became angry.
The post continued, "He told me and I quote “Aap nikal jaye yahan se. Bike ka license nahi dete hum larkiyo ko. Aap aurat he aap gaari chalaye”. I asked him the reason for this absurd rule but obviously he gave me no response other than continuously telling me to get out."
She then proceeded to confirm this with a contact at another branch of the office, which he did.
The post ended with a million-dollar why? and asked, "Exactly what kind of law is this? Have these people decided themselves as to who should and who shouldn’t be allowed to ride a bike? Where do I complaint about this? Is anyone in this country accountable for anything at all?"
Speaking to Images, Ferozpurwalla says, "After my post, I've found out that many girls got their bike license because they pressurised the staff at the license office and stood their ground when they were refused. I'm planning to go and try again. This time I won't leave till I get one."
"However, my concern is this: Why are these people operating these offices according to their own will? Does this mean that if a man sitting behind the counter is someone who doesn't believe that women should step out of the house, will he refuse to issue licenses to women?”
“Are they not hired to do their job and not bring their personal opinions to the table? Or now are women expected to first check the officer's mood and then decide whether to ask for a motorbike license? Where are the authorities? Why are these people policing women like this? A girl even commented on my post that the officer tore up her form when she ticked on 'motorbike'. Does the officer have the right to decide what women are allowed to drive?"
She asks, "Why is everything so difficult for a woman in this country? The women who got their licenses easily were just plain lucky that they did not run into a misogynistic man. So are we women now supposed to first gauge what kind of a person the officer is and then talk about a bike license?"