The gang-rape on Bahaudin Zakaria Express has left women feeling ever more insecure in public spaces

Aside from the long-term trauma that the victim in this case is likely to suffer, women in general are left feeling ever more insecure in the public space.


A file photo of the Lahore Railway Station being almost deserted as the Karachi-bound Khyber Mail waits for clearance to continue its journey. — M Arif / White Star/File

June 2, 2022

ISLAMABAD – ANOTHER horrific incident of sexual violence has come to light, underscoring how a cavalier approach to security arrangements can embolden criminally inclined men to indulge their worst instincts.

A few days ago, an unfortunate young woman was reportedly subjected to gang rape while travelling from Multan to Karachi by the Bahauddin Zakriya Express. As per the FIR, the three perpetrators are employees of the private firm to which Pakistan Railways had outsourced the train’s commercial operations.

Speaking to this paper, an official of the PR police said none of their personnel were deployed on the train because the contract under which it was being operated stipulated that security arrangements were the responsibility of the private contractor. The woman’s medical examination, according to the doctor concerned, has confirmed that she was indeed gang raped.

The question is not, why was the victim travelling alone? Instead, what must be asked is this: why was proper security not provided on board that could have prevented this terrible crime? The private firm has a duty of care towards those using the service it operates; and PR should have ensured that the company was abiding by the terms of the contract.

Such incidents have serious consequences. Aside from the long-term trauma that the victim in this case is likely to suffer, women in general are left — once again — feeling ever more insecure in the public space; the message to them is that without the ‘protection’ of a man, they are easy prey.

In the notorious Motorway gang rape of 2020 where a woman was assaulted in front of her minor children on the outskirts of Lahore, there was a public outcry against the city police chief for suggesting that the victim bore some responsibility for her ordeal because she was out late at night.

As in that case, the suspects must be proceeded against swiftly and punished. And all public transport must have proper security arrangements on board; women’s safety is the barometer of a nation’s values.

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