Every woman in Pakistan has faced some form of sexual harassment. I’m going to recount the least unpleasant one for me. A group of twenty something men eve teased me while I was walking to the nearby shop with our middle aged female house help. I was eleven years old at the time and I still remember what they said. I remember feeling terrified and sick. Our house help found this very amusing for some reason. She stressed upon me to take it as a compliment. This is the extent to which it’s normalised.
We don’t want an unsafe society but it’s anything but safe. Sexual abuse and violence has become a norm. Luck is the only element saving you right now. The element that determines you aren’t at the wrong place at the wrong time.
In this scenario what can we do to solve the problem? Here are a few things that may work.
- Muting yourself and listening helps us understand the nature and extent of the suffering of vulnerable people in society. The first step to change is acknowledging there is a problem.
- Dissociating ourselves from the problem will not help. When darkness and evil is allowed to spread, it’s ripple effects ruin more lives than the ones directly touched by it.
- Good won’t triumph over evil, unless good people rise up and fight it. Change will not happen unless privileged members of society join and spearhead the fight. In Pakistan that status is given to men. Patriarchy ensures it. Thus, if you see any form of harassment raise your voice against it and fight it. Fight against your friends, family and strangers.
- Women need to change their attitude as well. Silence is no longer an option. Complacence is no longer wise. Don’t protect or fear your family members. Raise your voice against abuse and report it even if the preparator is someone close to you. View the crime for what it is. A threat to society at large if it’s allowed to go unchecked. Don’t think you have an invisibility cloak because of your chosen reasons.
- Do not list sociological factors and apologize for rape. It isn’t a just crime of untamed sexual desire. It’s a crime of hate, domination, power and subjugation. It is practised on the weak, helpless and vulnerable. Even if you take away the rapist’s genitals, they’ll find other ways to harm and gain power over their targeted prey.
- Do not ostracize rape survivors. Do not sensationalise their trauma. Do not make them feel small or fallen or whatever centuries of filth has been stuffed in your mind by popular media and older generations. Protect their identity, protect their dignity like your own, support them and stand by them. Empathise but do not patronise, do not judge, do not criticise. They haven’t ‘lost’ anything precious. They are brave survivors.
- Most of all, we are in trying times and we are all anxious and scared. But please don’t step back, don’t hide away, don’t quit your jobs, don’t lock yourself away in your homes. If you do that, you are feeding into the culture of fear the criminals want you to feed into. They want to intimidate you. This is the time to be more aggressive not be more timid. Fight, with weapons, fight with your pen, fight with your will and fight with your hands and feet. But FIGHT you must.
We all want a safe country. A country where rapists roam free and victims are blamed is thrown back centuries in progressiveness. Let’s all join hands to bring about change.