Women avoiding parks in Mianwali as whistling and catcalling persist

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Mahpara Zulqadar

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Read In Urdu

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Women avoiding parks in Mianwali as whistling and catcalling persist

Mahpara Zulqadar

loop

Read In Urdu

Twenty-five-year-old Nasreen belongs to Ibrahim Abad, a neighbourhood of Mianwali city. She recently completed her Masters from Sargodha University and was admitted through sports quota. She was an athletics player at university, participating in university competitions. She has returned home after completing her studies. She wants to continue her practice, but there is no separate park or ground for women in Mianwali, so she is confined to her home.

“My parents always supported me in participating in college and university athletics, but the society in Mianwali is backward. Due to the lack of separate facilities for women here, my training is confined to home as I can't train in a mixed park in this patriarchal society."

According to the data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the total population of Mianwali district is over 15 lakh, 46 thousand, with half of the population being women.

There are currently only three parks in the city. These include the recently constructed City Park, Dreamland Park and Kashmir Park. These parks have inadequate and substandard facilities. There is no park dedicated exclusively to women.

These three parks fall within the former National Assembly (NA) Constituency NA-96, where Amjad Ali Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was elected Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan (MNA) in the 2018 election.

Social leader Nazia Safir Asad says that 99 per cent of women in Mianwali observe purdah and are restricted by their families from going for a walk or exercising in mixed parks due to the cultural norms of Mianwali. Due to this, women are limited to the four walls of their houses. The district administration must keep in mind the traditions of Mianwali and allocate a park exclusively for women enabling them to prioritise their physical health.

There are three private gyms for women in the city, but paying their monthly fees is difficult for middle-class women. According to gym owners, only a small percentage of women can visit regularly.

Thirty-seven-year-old Shazia is a resident of Mianwali and works as a school teacher. Her husband is associated with the education sector, and they lead a prosperous life.

Shazia, a mother of two, used to take an evening walk with her children in Kashmir Park, located close to her house. Her husband has forbidden them from going to the park for the past month.

She told Lok Sujag, "I used to go to the park with my children almost every day, where they would walk and play on the swings. Apart from me, only a few women used to visit the park. A while back, some unknown people whistled and shouted phrases at us. I mentioned this to my husband, who stopped me from visiting the park, instructing me to walk at home instead, as he believes this park is unsuitable for women. "

There is Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code to prevent catcalling or harassment of women, according to which a person guilty of such an offence can be punished with imprisonment for three years and a fine of five lakh rupees.

In this regard, Sub-Inspector Ruqaya Malik, posted at Police Station City, while talking to Lok Sujag, said that not a single case of harassment has been registered for the past three years, mainly due to a lack of familiarity with laws and prevailing social attitudes.

 "Most women face such behaviours daily. One does not get the family’s support if mentioned in the house, due to which the cases are not registered."

According to the officials of the Municipal Committee, there are no regular security guards in any park, as there has never been any need to post guards.

Assistant Professor Tariq Masood, posted in Government Graduate College Mianwali, said it is a strange tragedy of this society where every tradition is attributed to women. “As much as women have to fulfill the role of observing traditions, men are also obliged to fulfil the responsibility.”

While talking to Lok Sujag, Miss Sameera Alvi, the Assistant Director of the Social Welfare Department, said that in a patriarchal society like Mianwali, women suffer oppression but refrain from speaking out, often due to traditional norms.

"Even if a woman dares to speak out, fingers are pointed at her character, while a man's ordinary actions are justified as mistakes, and the story concludes with an apology."

Asghar Hussain Shah, Superintendent of the Municipal Committee, says that no district administration in Mianwali has ever sanctioned any scheme providing separate recreational facilities for women. However, the current district government has established a ladies' club in response to women's demands.

Deputy Commissioner of District Mianwali, Sajjad Ahmed Khan, says that the district administration is well aware of the culture and civilisation of Mianwali.

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“We have created a ladies' club for women so that our sisters and daughters can work out without any problems and enjoy various recreational activities. The district government is trying to provide maximum facilities,” he says.

However, the women who visit this club disagree with the Deputy Commissioner, for example, Jahanara and Ammara Niazi, who are regular members of the Ladies Club.

Jahanara describes this club and its facilities as inadequate. Talking to Lok Sujag, she says that the condition of the ladies' club is also like that of other government offices where no facilities are available. There is a women-only meeting every month to chat with friends, but apart from that, this club has no other benefits. There is neither gym equipment nor a jogging track.

"Having a ladies' club is the same as not having one."

District Women Committee member Ammara Saeed Khan Niazi, while talking to Lok Sujag, said that the affluent class of Mianwali can go to big cities, especially Islamabad and Lahore, to enjoy entertainment facilities, but there is no such facility for the common people in the district.

"We have submitted a request to the Deputy Commissioner's office, requesting him to make the recently constructed city park reserved for women only so that our district's women  can also visit the park freely and take care of their health."

Published on 8 Jan 2024

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