Does urban infrastructure produce gendered violence in Pakistan? A three-year study on the factors that influence gender violence in urban Pakistan has concluded in the affirmative. The study focuses on three different types of infrastructure – water, sanitation and transport. The connection between the unequal access to infrastructure and gendered violence is a dimension often ignored by those looking to combat gender injustice and violence. Many of the conclusions are not hard to come to but the real problem is that the recognition of this does not exist in current planning paradigms. For example: if access to water were equal for both men and women, would it reduce the scale of violence that is created by unequal access to water? How particular infrastructural environments are designed shape how men, women and transgender individuals interact with each other. Based on a survey of 2,445 households in Karachi and the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area, the study has attempted to understand what kind of violence people experience and how access to infrastructure services gives rise to such violence. For example, the study notes that women are expected to manage water supplies at home while men are responsible for getting access to water in the streets. This creates masculine forms of violence in the street and masculine frustrations at home.
If a part of the problem of violence in our cities has been identified, the next question for us is whether there is a way that this study can contribute to solutions. If women and men have equal access to a service, would it reduce gendered violence? We cannot be certain – especially in a context where scarcity seems to be the biggest determining factor for a lot of urban conflict. Scarcity does not seem to have been a major concern for the study. It is also true that this is not as much of a concern when it comes to the transport infrastructure, where everyday harassment experienced by women requires a more nuanced study. It is not enough to emphasise the infrastructural factor. This becomes clear when the study notes that many women do not recognise domestic violence as violence. The study itself notes the factor of external violence – notably paramilitary operations in cities. If the study agrees that families that have low access to essential services are more prone to gender violence, then there is a need to solve this by providing the said infrastructure. Maybe it is time our policymakers looked at gender-sensitising infrastructure as an essential policy factor – but there will also need to be a much clearer articulation of what it translates into at the level of planning.