This multi-authored article (2019) provides new insights into the politics of water provisioning in Karachi’s informal settlements, where water shortages and contaminations have pushed ordinary citizens to live on the knife edge of water scarcity. We turn our attention to the everyday practices that involve gendered insecurities of water in Karachi, which has been Pakistan’s security laboratory for decades. We explore four shifting security logics that strongly contribute to the crisis of water provisioning at the neighbourhood level and highlight an emergent landscape of ‘securitised water’. Gender maps the antagonisms between these security logics, so we discuss the impacts on ordinary women and men as they experience chronic water shortages. In Karachi, a patriarchal stereotype of the militant or terrorist-controlled water supply is wielded with the aim of upholding statist national security concerns that undermine women’s and men’s daily security in water provisioning whereby everyday issues of risk and insecurity appear politically inconsequential. We contend that risk has a very gendered nature and it is women that experience it both in the home and outside.
The report is the final output of the Safe and Inclusive Cities Program (SAIC) project (2013 – 2016). The core discussions and analysis in this final research report are anchored in the following four themes: vulnerabilities, mobilities, access to infrastructure services - water, sanitation, transport - and violence. The project has focused on the material and discursive drivers of gender roles and their relevance to configuring violent geographies specifically among 12 urban poor, lower-income, lower-middle income, neighborhoods of 3 cities: Karachi, Rawalpindi, and Islamabad. The project has investigated how frustrated gendered expectations may be complicit in driving different types of violence and how they may be tackled by addressing first, the material aspects of gender roles through improved access to infrastructure services and opportunities, and second, discursive aspects of gender roles in terms of public education and media. This report's findings are based upon approximately 2400 hundred questionnaire surveys, close to 60 ethnographic style interviews, participant observations, participatory photographic surveys, media monitoring, secondary literature review and some key informant interviews. The findings overwhelmingly point towards access to infrastructure services and vulnerability profiles of households as major drivers of violence, as they intersect with discourses surrounding masculinities,femininities and sexualities. This was a multi-method research project and each of the methods was chosen to address specific types of data relevant to the specific research questions.