“We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”, Quaid-e-Azam
So at least one thing is clear, Quaid wanted space for women to pursue their aspirations free from evil customs. Evil customs we do have— dowry, forced marriage, marriage expenditures, slander, child marriage and male domination of the society.
Things looked fine till the late ‘70s, and then the dreaded Islamisation drive of General Zia came in. With this came patriarchy, frustration, power-trips, sexual harassment, and discrimination, underinvestment in society, insecurity and hate. Every section of the society built protection walls around it and exploited the weaker groups. Women and children had it the worst.
I can’t even imagine the torture and pain little girls go through in the absence of the law guaranteeing protection against the predators.
In the absence of diverse economic opportunities for Pakistani men, their manhood is threatened when they cannot provide for their families. The result is abuse and control of the most vulnerable— women and children.
When Meesha Shafi tweeted that she was sexually harassed by Ali Zafar the entertainer, ‘despite being an accomplished woman’, ‘several times’, she gave confidence to the millions of working women of Pakistan to vent their feelings.
Sharing this because I believe that by speaking out about my own experience of sexual harassment, I will break the culture of silence that permeates through our society. It is not easy to speak out.. but it is harder to stay silent. My conscience will not allow it anymore #MeToo pic.twitter.com/iwex7e1NLZ
— Meesha Shafi (@itsmeeshashafi) April 19, 2018
Then Nadia Jamil tweeted being molested as a child and being ‘too much hurt. Too much violence. Still painful’.
I was 4 the first time I was abused sexually. I was in college when it blew out of proportion.
People tell me not to talk to respect my families honour. Is my families honour packed in my body? I am a proud,strong,loving survivor. No shame on me or my kids. Only pride 4 being me
— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) January 13, 2018
That was followed by Fareeha Altaf tweeting that molestation happened when to her when ‘she was 6’… ’at 34 I realized how it impacted my life’.
I was sexually abused by our cook at age 6. My parents took action but everyone remained silent as if it was my shame. At 34 I realised how it had impacted my life.the only shame is keeping SILENT #ChildAbuse #shame #NoMoreChildAbuse #MeToo #JusticeForZainab #HowToStopChildAbuse
— Frieha Altaf (@FriehaAltaf) January 14, 2018
Maheen Khan followed soon after with ‘the molvi…abused me sexually. I froze in fear day after day’.
#childabuse #saynotochildabuse #metoo The Maulvi who came to teach me the Quran abused me sexually .I froze in fear day after day .
Share in support of children subjected to the sick acts ..by so called custodians of our religion
— Maheen Khan (@Maheenkhanpk) January 14, 2018
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I personally know working women suffering in silence and children that are so hurt, they cannot function as adults.
It’s not about Ali Zafar and who he has groped. It’s about the general malaise that has spread throughout this rich and vibrant society of ours, due to years of criminal neglect by demagogues.
We have to agree, that there is a sexual predatory epidemic in the land of Pure.
Although Pakistan has enacted the Protection of women bill of 2006 and Punjab has upped it one step more with the harassment bill of 2016, the real problem is still there.
Strict segregation of men and women for decades has developed fault lines in the mechanics of daily living. Every woman outside the household has to be groped and every child has to be molested by men that haven’t been trained any better. For one, men and women should be allowed to intermingle with simple rules of decency and common sense to monitor these exchanges.
Then we have to give space in our society to divorcees, unmarried, single mothers’ and professional women to earn a respectable living. Yes, Islam gives protection to women inside the home, by her patron (husband), but women have to make a living outside too. Islam never condones violence against women, and then why not give them leverage to grow? They need government’s protection from harassment to be productive.
Then we need to talk about sex, domestic violence, rape, molestation and all issues surrounding it. If Pakistan doesn’t talk about these issues within, where will the closure come from? How will we reconcile the decades of exploitation, hurt and shame?
No one-group in our society should have absolute power because ‘it corrupts absolutely’. Not even the patriarch of the nuclear family. We need checks and balance to power abuse.
We definitely don’t want to be kind of cruel society the west has become but we also can’t stay in limbo for long. Something has to give. The earlier we bring in reforms for the society and let the weaker segment breath, the easier the transition will be.
For the #MeToo crowd, I say Go Gurl! and for the courageous women that are suffering in silence—good times are coming.