Girls in Pakistan have said that they are being deprived of using computer and internet facilities owing to the non-conducive environment prevalent in the country's internet cafes.
Although there are many Internet cafes in commercial and non-commercial areas in the country, girls find it difficult to enter such facilities, where receptionists watching vulgar movies or playing songs on their PCs, smoke-filled room with guys staring at the girls have become a common sight.
Many girls have revealed the problems they face due to unavailability of quality Internet cafes.
They have also asked the authorities to look into the matter as using internet, scanners and printers has now become a vital part of university projects.
Saadia Siddique, a resident of Chaklala Scheme III, said that her family members never allowed her to visit Internet cafes due to their bad reputation.
And she said that her first visit to a cafe made her realise that her father was right-the dingy cafe was located in the basement that was completely male-dominated.
"The loud music and vulgar songs all made the environment unbearable for any respectable person," The News quoted her as saying.
She also called for separate facilities for girls.
Another student, Nosheen Amber, said that such an environment prompted girls to ask boys to do their net cafe-related part of their projects for them.
Even the boys avoided going to certain net cafes famous for illicit activities, said Aziz Khan, a university student.
"Many cafes are famous for free availability of drugs and playing of porno movies," he said, adding that it was advisable for even boys not to visit cafes with cabins.
An owner of such a facility accepted the fact that only a few girls dared to visit net cafes, but he said that the number was on a rise.
He said that quality net cafes reserved sections exclusively for women.
"Unfortunately, the number of such facilities is limited," said Waseem Akram, who runs his business in Super Market.
Akram said that no one knew the exact numbers of such outlets for many young boys were running this business in their homes. He even advised women to start their own outlets reserved for females.
Free access to information and communication technologies (ICT) is considered vital to women's empowerment as it directly affects their economic, socio-cultural, legal political and psychological development.
Calling such technological disparities between women and men as 'gender digital divide,' experts have said that there was a need to come up with innovative ideas and gender specific policies to narrow the gap between men and women.
Many girls said that universities and colleges could provide computer-related facilities for students, and many others said that the government could arrange for computers and related machinery on loan to girls.
"Women should be encouraged to start such business for students so that there can be a choice of separate Internet cafes for girls," said Saadia.