The ultimate millennial dream is to live alone and be financially independent and this concept is no longer restricted to men as more and more Pakistani women are expanding their horizons and taking jobs in different cities.
When it comes to finding a place to live, there aren’t a lot of options available to women
As a woman living alone in Lahore, following are the boxes we wish to tick when looking for a place to live. It is important that the neighborhood is safe and preferably a gated community. However, that is increasingly difficult as areas like Askari 10 and Askari 11 aren’t open to letting single men or women rent out houses or apartments.
The second thing we value is how close we can live to our place of work because those of us who work long hours wish to get home as quickly as possible as the streets of Lahore aren’t friendly to women at night. Also, those of us who travel by rickshaw or cabs often have a self-inflicted curfew and wish to be home as early as possible.
Lastly, we prefer landlords who are decent human beings and will not try to take advantage of the fact that we live alone. However, all of these conditions are difficult to fulfill as most real estate agents do not wish to cater to women.
These women talk about their struggles while trying to find a place to live alone in Lahore
Safiya, who moved to Lahore from Karachi and has a full-time job in an NGO, started noticing mixed gestures and signals from her Landlords which made her feel uncomfortable to the extent that she eventually gave a monthly notice and moved out.
Uzma talked to us about her experience when she moved to Lahore after graduating college. “When I started looking for a place to live I called around 20 different real estate agents and only 5 of them agreed to take me to see places.”
According to Uzma’s anecdote, most agents just complain that their clients only want male tenants. They tend to assume that a woman living alone will engage in activities that are frowned upon by society as there are no men around to keep her in check. Often families who prefer male tenants also refer to a bad precedent set in the past by a female tenant but this does not excuse the bias considering the formal rent agreement allows them to do a background check on their tenants whether male or female.
The options available to women range from one extreme to another, because landlords who do rent their places to women will be invasive on their private lives
Some families will be willing to rent out an upper portion to unmarried girls but will also morally police them in several matters.
These women are held accountable for the time they come home, the friends they invite over and even the clothes they wear. Even if women find a place to live in this city they often have to sacrifice their freedom. The other extreme is those who might rent out the place to single working women but will treat them in a perverse manner that will make them feel threatened or unsafe. This could be avoided if separate houses and apartments were available for rent to groups of women living together in safe societies like Cantt, Sui Gas Society, Askari etc.
There are a few female hostels within Lahore that make it easier for girls to become independent
These hostels give furnished rooms to young women who are either in the city to work or study and charge a reasonable amount. An example of this is the Gulberg Girls Hostel. One representative of the hostel stated that they have a curfew of 10 to 11 pm unless the office or company issues a letter notifying that a woman should be allowed to stay out of the hostel, late for work purposes.
Even though this is a viable and safe option for women, a hostel does not allow them the same level of freedom or independence as it would allow men who live alone in the city. This is in no way meant to undermine the problems that men may face when looking for places to live but the focus of this article is the problems that are specific to women.
These problems are also not restricted to single women living alone but also extend to families without any male members like we saw in the case of the actress Komal Aziz who lives with her mother and sister
Their landlord allegedly took advantage of the lack of a male figurehead by forcing them to move out and threatening them even after they had left.
It is, however commendable, that despite all of the above more and more women are venturing out of their homes and taking risks. We hope that this trend will normalize in Lahore soon and people will become more hospitable to the idea of single working women making it easier for more and more women to become independent.
Cover image via: pri.org