KARACHI: Does there exist a connection between frustrated gendered expectations and violence in Pakistan? Apparently so, reveals the research report Gender and Violence in Urban Pakistan, launched at the IBA on Thursday.
Co-authored by Dr Nausheen Anwar, Dr Daanish Mustafa and Dr Amiera Sawas, the research has investigated how different permutations of gender — men, women and transgender — help drive different types of violence.
With Karachi and Rawalpindi-Islamabad in focus, 2,445 households were surveyed for the drivers of violence with relation to gender and gender roles, in 12 working-class neighbourhoods.
Dr Nausheen Anwar, associate professor for city and regional planning at the IBA, spoke about the amount of data amassed during the three year project, which is a collaboration between King’s College, London, and the IBA. The current research, she explained, came under the umbrella of the Safe and Inclusive Cities Project (SAIC), a network of projects funded by the International Development Research Centre and the UK government’s Department of International Development.
“When we are looking at cities in the Global South, the urban processes taking place there are very dynamic and are giving room to violence. But why is it that some cities are more violent than others? And if so what could be the possible drivers of urban violence?”
Another key component of this research, Dr Anwar explained, was to find solutions that are pragmatic. “In this research we have connected the drivers of urban violence with gender; how are discursive and material constructions of gender linked? Physical force, or the threat of the use of physical force, are in specific dealt with.”
Three types of infrastructure were the main focus of the research — water, sanitation, and transport. Dr Anwar said: “We see that the infrastructure environment shapes the way men, women and transgenders interact with one another and this process sometimes results in violence.”
Some of the questions in the study asked respondents about the kinds of violence they had experienced, as well as how access, or lack thereof, to infrastructure services gave rise to violence and in turn was impacted by it.
For instance, revealed the results, which were shared by Dr Daanish Mustafa of King’s College, London, an overwhelming number of respondents in Karachi, more than 88 per cent, reported being a victim of violence by strangers, while in Rawalpindi-Islamabad, 35pc of respondents reported violence by strangers.
Urbanisation and development, he explained, was not taking into consideration people and their socio-economic hardships, which exacerbated their vulnerabilities.
The research, Dr Mustafa said, pointed towards “access to services and vulnerability profiles of households as major drivers of violence, as they intersect with discourses surrounding masculinities, femininities and sexualities”.
Speaking of vulnerability, he explained how the researchers had established “a quantitative index which is basically trying to explain 90pc of the variance in vulnerability”.
“Where must we go when we are hit by a natural disaster, and how is there a connection with violence?” he said. “If you’re looking for an association, you will find it but association by itself will not tell you anything. The important thing is why does that association actually show up? So if the research reveals that 80pc to 85pc of people have experienced violence, which is a very high level, we need to know why.” Another premise he spoke about was of masculinity and femininity that needed to be performed every day, through behaviour, clothing etc. “According to our research, for masculinity and femininity to be expressed, infrastructure is important. And when there is a deprivation of this infrastructure and these concepts cannot be expressed, then we see an upsurge in violence in society.”
This idea was given context by Dr Amiera Sawas of Grantham Institute of Imperial College, London; she gave the example of the water crisis and lack of an infrastructure of solid waste disposal.
“To understand how the linkages between infrastructure and violence unfold, we need real-world examples. Water and sanitation were some of the biggest problems in the lives of the respondents and in our interactions with them, and we found a spectrum of violence related to water and sanitation which is experienced and perpetrated by men and women.”
With regard to water supply in Karachi, Dr Sawas explained how development actors talked about women being the primary managers of water supplies within the household, which however, in the urban space was a different reality. Women, she said, might be expected to manage the water supplies in the household, but in the street it was men who were expected to search for supplies and access water.
“In six of the seven neighbourhoods of Karachi that we worked with, they experienced major gaps in the water supplies but were still expected to pay their bills. Thus there is pressure on men to be able to provide the water and fund the water which many of them said was ‘financially crippling’.”
This frustration and pressure to provide, Dr Sawas explained, gave rise to different forms of violence. “It has caused masculine forms of violence in the public sphere as well as causing frustrations to masculinity in the private sphere.”