Pakistani women on motorcycles are in more danger than you think…
While the trend of Pakistani women driving motorcycles themselves has only become more common in the last few years, the concept of women riding as passengers on motorcycles behind men has been around since, well, motorcycles have been around.
Thousands of women in Pakistan commute on the back of motorcycles every day
They may be sitting behind their fathers, brothers, husband, cousins or whoever but usually all of them have one thing in common; they always sit sideways with both their legs on the same side. And this is not the recommended way to sit since it is pretty dangerous.
Yet, every woman that I have observed sitting on the back of a motorcycle sits sideways even though this puts them in more danger than if they sat in the recommended way which is facing the front, with one leg on either side of the motorcycle.
I had never really thought about how this could be dangerous until I had to sit on a motorcycle as a passenger myself.
Sitting sideways felt scary; there was nothing to help me balance because there was nothing to support my back. And I constantly felt like I would fall off if I did not hold the driver on for dear life, which in itself felt awkward and uncomfortable. And then I started consciously noticing how almost every single woman sitting as a passenger on a motorcycle sat sideways and wondered if they felt scared as well or were they used to it by now.
I knew why this was such an issue because I had heard a woman talk about the same issue; she recounted how she was sitting with her legs on either side of the motorcycle behind her colleague on her way home.
When they stopped at a traffic signal another motorcyclist called her besharam for sitting that way.
Somehow a woman sitting as a passenger on a motorcycle the right way is considered lewd. So much so, that Careem or Uber bike drivers at times refuse rides to women who insist on sitting the correct way; with their legs on either side of the motorcycle.
Personally, I fail to understand why that would be the case. So I talked to other women who commute regularly on the backs of motorcycles about what they have experienced. And what comments if any, they have heard.
A friend told me when she tries to sit the correct way on a motorcycle behind her father or brother, both of them are quick to chastise her and tell her to sit sideways as is common with women in Pakistan. Another told me, that when she sits with both her legs on either side of the motorcycle when she is in her village, no one bats an eye but the same behavior in cities makes her a mark for long stares by strange men.
And the stares and at times verbal harassment are too big a price to pay.
To find out whether Pakistani women on motorcycles who are actually driving them face the same issues, I talked to Motorcycle Girl herself, Zenith Irfan.
She told me that when she has sat behind her brother in the proper way, she attracts a lot of stares which is uncomfortable. And she believed this might have something to do with how sitting on a bike with your legs draped on either side is considered manly and unbecoming for a woman to do so. Since whenever there is a male passenger on a motorcycle, you will never see them sitting sideways.
While she herself has not faced a lot of criticism, she did recall hearing people talk about women who ride bikes or motorcycles are in danger of losing their virginity.
While these reasons may not stand true for everyone, they seem to be the general case according to the women I spoke to.
The national obsession with a woman’s virginity is insane.
I won’t even go into how ridiculous it is to think that a woman might lose her virginity while riding a motorcycle but to put women’s lives in danger so that women remain chaste… is downright stupid. But this stream of thought is common amongst people when it comes to women playing sports or riding horses, cycles or motorbikes.
But why exactly is a woman opening her legs and placing them on either side of a motorcycle such a difficult idea to swallow? Why has it been made into something wrong, something lewd when in reality it is just the RIGHT way to sit on a motorcycle.
The norm for women passengers on motorcycles is to sit sideways but should that be the case? I don’t think so. Not when it puts women in more danger.
Hearing about dozens of accidents with women passengers that occur daily that could easily have been avoided is something that needs to end! And I hope this happens soon either through introducing fines or public awareness campaigns, something needs to change and hopefully that something is our mindsets.
What do you think about society even policing how women sit on a motorbike? Let us know in the comments.
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Cover Image Via: pak101.com