Workplace harassment: Female wardens fade from view in chauvinist Lahore

Published: February 19, 2012

None of 140 female traffic wardens serve on the roads any longer. PHOTO: EXPRESS/ FILE

LAHORE: 

On April 3, 2008, eight female traffic wardens on heavy bikes patrolled the city’s major roads as they became the first women to work as traffic cops. Today, the traffic police has a total of 140 female wardens, but none have regular assignments to work on the roads.

Wardens and their bosses said the women had been driven away for various reasons, but largely because of harassment by men and social conventions that discourage women from being out on the streets.

DIG Ghulam Mehmood Dogar, who was chief traffic officer (CTO) when the first female wardens were inducted, said the idea had been that commuters would behave better if they had to deal with women wardens.

However, many wardens were driven away from traffic duty by ugly incidents of harassment. One warden told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that she soon became used to being stared at by men in public, but was reduced to tears after one incident on The Mall when she was groped by a man on a motorbike.

“I cried at the CTO’s office and he ordered me transferred to the Ticketing Branch. The same thing happened to several other wardens,” she said.

CTO Syed Ahmad Mobin said that the force had 140 female wardens and all served in offices. Many served in positions where they had to deal with the public, such as licensing, ticketing and education, but not in traffic. He said their families didn’t want them working on the roads.

“Society is to blame,” he said. Asked if he thought it fair that female wardens didn’t have to do road duty, he said: “If you want women on the force, you have to be sensitive to their problems.”

Salim, a traffic warden serving on the Ring Road, felt otherwise. He said it was true that the women were subjected to harassment and made to feel uncomfortable by some members of the public, but the main reason they didn’t want to handle traffic on the roads was because of the toughness of that job. He said he knew of only two female wardens who were doing traffic duty.

DIG Dogar said that during his time as CTO, some people had been arrested for harassing female wardens and most of them remained on traffic duty during his tenure. He said having women serve as wardens was important, as it sent the message to the public that women could work in jobs traditionally considered for men only. It also made Lahore look more modern, he said.

Balochistan Additional IG Ghalib Bundaisha, who worked with DIG Dogar on introducing the female wardens, said that women on the force improved the image of law-enforcement agencies and he was trying to set up a female traffic squad and patrolling squad in Quetta over the next couple of months.

He said that shortly after the female traffic wardens were introduced in Lahore, they were sent to schools as part of an awareness campaign. Dozens of female students from these schools had asked them where they could get training to drive motorbikes.

Bushra Khalid, the executive director of Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), said that having women serving visibly in jobs such as traffic wardens was an important step towards making Pakistani society and public life more friendly to women. She said that the female wardens should serve on the roads and any complaints of eve teasing should be addressed under the Protection Against Harassment at the Workplace Bill and Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • the only rationalist left
    Feb 19, 2012 - 11:30AM

    yea I am a chauvinist by evolution, come and shoot me.

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  • owais
    Feb 19, 2012 - 11:42AM

    “One warden told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that she soon became used to being stared at by men in public, but was reduced to tears after one incident on The Mall when she was groped by a man on a motorbike.”

    she wasn’t topless like veena or wearing little clothes. so why was she groped? i thought this was the islamic republic of pakistan? what does the difa-e-pakistan have to say about this?

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  • xzy
    Feb 19, 2012 - 12:37PM

    Typical behaviour of Pakistani Muslim Men.

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  • truth is bitter
    Feb 19, 2012 - 1:00PM

    sigh ! when our society will mature ? i am afraid, never.

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  • Feb 19, 2012 - 1:11PM

    The perform their duties better in offices, i have seen many time they are unable to control traffic as they frequently get confused and some times they cant even drive their 250CC engine, office work is best for them

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  • Uzair
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:38PM

    (note to ET moderator: had an edit so please include this comment instead of the one submitted a minute ago)

    QUOTE: “yea I am a chauvinist by evolution, come and shoot me.”

    CORRECTION: What our fellow male “humans” do is not chauvinism, it is plan and outright sexual harassment. A chauvinist can be polite if condescending towards women (as evidenced by Pakistan politics’ comment), but a caveman thinking man will think any woman he can see is fair game for groping and lewd remarks. Yes, if you are talking about evolution then our men are far far behind most others in their level of mental sophistication and self-control.

    – a Pakistani male who is embarrassed by his fellows and feels sorry for all Pakistani women

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  • Sweet Dee
    Feb 19, 2012 - 2:55PM

    Society is to blame….rightfully said, but this kind of behaviour exists all over the world – it’s human nature.
    It’s more prevalent in Pakistan because of our sexually repressed society.

    There’s a simple way to stop sexual harassment of the female wardens (or any woman for that matter) – equip them with self-defence weapons like a baton, mace, or even better, a taser. Once a few perpetrators get a taste of 10,000 volts running through their bodies, i’m pretty sure sexual harassment incidents will go down exponentially.Recommend

  • Gary Rumain
    Feb 19, 2012 - 7:31PM

    Give the sharmutas tasers and teach them how to use them. Guns would be better but they can come next if the tasers don’t work. Send them back out into the streets and tell them to taser any who doesn’t show respect. Since this will mean half the city, they’ll have their work cut out for them.

    But, after a few months, no will dare bother them.Recommend

  • Feb 19, 2012 - 10:33PM

    @the only rationalist left:
    Evolution? Isn’t that blasphemy?

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  • Uzair J
    Feb 20, 2012 - 2:13AM

    This is frustration in men at its best. Lack of either education or practise of religion is the root cause of this problem. Either a person with a good faith and practise of the religion would hesitate starring at women, harassing them or hooting at them. Chauvinist or not, its basic ethics that one learns at school.

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  • Georgina
    Feb 20, 2012 - 1:58PM

    @owais:
    you missed the point, these women were being groped and harassed because they presumed to do a ‘man’s job’ in a position of authority.
    I am with Gary Rumain on this one. Make harassment illegal and give these women the authority and ability to arrest anyone who breaks the law.

    Women in the west were not given emancipation or the respect of men; they fought, suffered and some died, to ensure that women had the same rights as men. However, this means they also have the same responsibilities and the duty to pass this on to our daughters.

    Female police officers in America are taught to fight, and fight hard and dirty. How to take down a man, how to protect themselves and how and when to arrest a man mistreating women.
    Maybe these women should be sent there for further training?

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