“Tell your story. Shout it. Write it. Whisper it if you have to.
But tell it. Some won’t understand it. Some will outright reject it.
But many will thank you for it. And then the most magical thing will happen.
One by one, voices will start whispering, ‘Me, too.’ And your tribe will gather. And you will never feel alone again.” ~
The topic of this blog is very sensitive. We all might have faced some sexual harassment during our childhood, in our teenage or even after that. But surprisingly we don’t want to talk about it. As it’s too shameful to discuss such matters and nobody wants to make such confessions. Also, I had to motivate myself to write this blog because it is not easy, it’s excruciating to tell such things. Nobody wants to remember such events.
What is Sexual Harassment?
If we look at the definition of harassment, it states “harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.” When I read this definition I was thunderstruck; I got goosebumps. Since this made me realize that a lot of times we are being harassed on the roads by random people who make remarks on us. We ignore them, and maybe this helps them in becoming more deplorable in the future.
Sexual Harassment in Pakistan
When I saw the statistics of the women who were a victim of harassment in Pakistan, my eyes were full of tears, and my face turned pink in resentment. Where are we living? In a place where women are so insecure, where women are so vulnerable to the saboteurs.
According to research conducted by UNISON in 2008, more than 50% of working women face sexual harassment in Pakistan. There is an increase in the number of violence cases filed every day, and there is an even more significant number of incidents which go unreported. During 2008 total reported cases were 24119 of violence against women during 2008-10 among which workplace harassment cases include 520 cases. Haleema Rafique, a talented fast bowler, committed suicide due to sexual harassment. A flag carrier air hostess filed a lawsuit against PIA Chairperson for sexually harassing her. The Daewoo hostess was kidnapped and raped in Sialkot in 2010. The cases of violence against women were 7,733 in 2013. The number of women murdered was 1,516, while 472 were killed for reasons of ‘honor’ ( Muhammad Usman Awan, 2016). According to the Express Tribune, approximately 93 % of women face sexual harassment in their lifetime (Mudaser Kazi,2017).
These statistics of my country are disturbing. What kind of patriarchal society is this where a woman is so flimsy. That is the holistic view of the harassment that is happening in the country. Now let’s rewind things and talk about some personal experiences.
I was born into a military family. I was lucky to get a lot of protection in my childhood. Because we use to play in secure parks, live in a gated community and play with friends who were approved by my parents and who belong to good families. When we were posted in Nowshera a city in Khyber Pakhtoon Khuwa, we use to go to the school in mini trucks. The mini truck used to wander around from stop to stop to pick children.
Our stop was the first stop, and I use to sit at the start of the mini truck on the left side to enjoy the fresh air. I have memories of a servant of the other officer which we call Batman in our army language. He uses to touch me inappropriately when the truck stops at his stop to collect the children of his boss.
I still remember how uncomfortable I use to get because I didn’t know what is happening. Everyone use to be there the driver, the second seater, the students who were sitting inside, but still, he stand close to my side and put his right hand on the back side of the seat, and nobody caught him. I never recognized what is happening because nobody told me what a lousy touch is. But I use to feel terrible and then I started to sit at the end. Since the sinful man uses to frighten me. I was scared of his presence. There was everybody, but still, I was alone because I didn’t know why he is doing it.
Then we were shifted from that place I had almost forgotten about this incident until I saw Highway. It is an Indian movie based on child abuse. In high school, I realized why that sinister was doing it. What was unforeseen was that for all those years I never knew the reason behind him doing it. Since I was too innocent to understand what sexual harassment is. Because nobody told me about it, so I was alien to what was happening. That’s the reason I never told my parents about it. As we never conferred such things at home.
Just remember that; sometimes, the way you think about a person is not the way they are ~ Jhon Green
Once we were discussing harassment and my friend told me how she had experienced something same. She was also an army brat, and she also lived in the same secure gated community. Her Qari Saab (the religious teacher) who comes to teach her the Holy Quran; use to touch her inappropriately.
This story was heinous how suspectable we are to get harassed in a place where nobody can imagine. How can a religious person be that atrocious? She had it when she was a child, and my friend was so affected by it that she had tears in her eyes while telling the story. She was considering herself responsible for it. Like me, she didn’t say anything to her parents. It is not because of the communication gap but because our parents don’t discuss such things with us. So they remain a taboo in our homes.
Sexual Abuse Leaves Scars that cannot be Seen
These were very mild incidents of harassment, but for a child they are massive. It is tough to be a victim of such a thing. And I can’t imagine what must be Zainab’s condition when that heartless monster was rapping her. Even an inappropriate touching can leave scars that cannot heel. I can’t imagine how vexatious are the wounds of the children who go through extreme sexual harassment.
Our stories were based in places which are secure, where there are security guards. And people are scared of the active policies against the wrongdoers in that area. I get anxious when I think about the scenario that what can happen in places where there is no security, where there are no guards. The fact is that more than half of Pakistan lives in such areas which are exposed to the unrighteous people.
Sexual Harassment when you become Mature
Now coming back to the present, the harassment is not only faced by the children, and it not only exists in Pakistan. I went to Umrah with my family last year. When I was in Makkah, I went to a souvenir shop I was buying things for my friends.
I felt a vicious touch. In Makkah, there is a crowd of people, and wherever you go, you will find a lot of people. So, you face a lot of people getting close to you or hitting you that’s not their fault that’s because of the rush. So, I thought he is not doing it consciously.
I went inside the shop where there were few people, and again I felt someone touching the lower part of my body. To inspect it I turned around. What I saw was a whiteish Arabic man standing in front of me.
I shouted at him; What is wrong with you? Everybody started staring at me. He got confused, and he ran away. The boy was so fast that I saw him at the end of the street. He ran away because he was guilty.
“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.” ~
In my country, people think that a girl gets harassed because she is wearing obscene clothes or is allowing the other person to do that. But let me tell my dear people who think like this. I was wearing an abaya (long gown) my head was covered with a scarf, and I was busy shopping, and still, I got harassed. Because it’s not you; it’s the person who is sick and is doing it. When I think about it now, I don’t feel scared like I apperceive when I didn’t say anything. When I was a child, I was weak, and I didn’t stop that Batman. Instead, I felt proud of myself that I took the stand for me. I make that shit ran away all alone. It gave me confidence in myself.
Now I think it’s inappropriate that we don’t speak up when someone uses bad words for us. When we are moving in the street or shopping, and someone harasses us. Who has given the right to that person to say something about you or to provide you with a sarcastic compliment? We should give him a shut up call to stop this patriarchal culture. Girls have to be strong. We should be independent to prevent this.
Meesha Shafi #MeToo
When Meesha Shafi filled a case against Ali Zaffar, the world criticized Meesha for her MeToo confession. I was feeling awful when I saw her picture where she was being hugged by a guy and people were writing bad comments. People commented that now she will call it sexual harassment. The worst was that most of the bashing dolls were girls.
There is a difference between someone allowing and someone being forced to do that. Our society needs to learn this that a no means no. A fantastic movie to watch on this topic is Pink.
The story is about a girl who became a victim of harassment. And she hit the guy in her self-defense. When the guy starts to bully her, she files a case.
The case was taken to court; the lawyer asked her few questions. Are you a virgin? She said no. The lawyer asked her; Did you go to the party where you faced this incident willingly?
She said yes I was being invited and I went there. Then she was asked; when you went there by choice with the guy who did harass you, when you had done it before you were not new to it, then what was the issue? But the problem was that she refused the guy, and he was forcing himself on her.
A no means a no. Who gave this right to a man to judge a woman’s character by how she dresses, where she goes or how many relationships she had. If a girl is saying a no, it is a no. You are no one to decide that she has done it with someone else, or dressed in a particular way, or is drinking so you are allowed to do it with her. A woman when say no; it is a no. She has every right to say it. If a man still does something, then he is a culprit.
Sexual harassment is as difficult to prove as it is to disprove ~ Kellyanne Conway
From the Meesha Shafi case, I deduced that you should give a shut up call to the person when you feel something erroneous. Most of the time it is not easy to prove harassment. So say it at the time when you are observing it. It will make that person run away, and you will get the confidence instead of keeping the guilt and telling it at the time when it is too difficult to prove.
Sexual Harassment in Marriages
Now talking about the most sensitive issue which we might not be aware of that rape can happen in marriages too. If a husband is forcing himself on his wife than it is rape. It is sexual harassment.
No relationship gives you a right to force yourself on anyone. You can’t; you’re not allowed. If your wife is saying you no; it is a no. I was stunned to know that out of the 93% of females who become a victim of sexual harassment in Pakistan during their lives face it at their homes. Mostly the culprit is their intimate partner. But astonishingly I have not heard of any woman speaking on this issue. Since we consider this the right of man and duty of a woman. How we forget that woman also has feelings. She is not an object. I have seen people justifying it by saying; if a woman does not do that the man will marry some other woman or get involved with somebody else.
For God’s sake man! How can you use this as an argument? If he is in the relationship only for this and he will cheat if you are not giving it. Then it’s not your fault, but he is a filthy person. You should leave such a man who is just interested in your flesh instead of becoming a victim to his desires. A man should convince her woman with love instead of forcing things on her. Because if you push, then there is no difference between you and a rapist. Any marriage agreement does not give liberty to the males to force themselves on their partners.
My blog was mainly based on women. That is primarily because I am a woman and I know the journey of a woman.
I am not denying the fact that males are also facing harassment. #MeToo made it possible for many to share their painful stories with the world. My wish is to see our future generation clean from such things. I wish there will be no #MeToo in future.
The conclusion is that nobody should face such a condition. Discuss these things with your children so that they are not alien to these things. Because no matter how open the environment of your house is if you don’t tell this to your kids your children will not share their experience with you. Eventually, it will make them scared of people and affect their personal development.
If you have a motivational story, you can share it with me. Email me on the contact details that are given below, and I will mention your story in my coming blogs.