Who will speak for the Pakistani woman?
Whether you wear a dupatta or not, the fact of the matter is that the minute a woman steps out of her house, she will feel as if everyone is staring at her. And this will happen in the local market and regardless of which neighbourhood you may be in – affluent or relatively poor – the reaction from men is usually the same.
They gawk at you as though you are from a different planet.
Even when I have to go to my workplace, I quickly get off the car and rush inside, lest all kinds of prying and penetrating eyes be staring at me.
The irony is that women of every section of our society are bound to feel insecure the moment they step out of their house, either for work or fun.
Recently, on my only day off in the work week, I had planned to hit the local cloth market to avail of some retail therapy. However, my outing was spoiled because of the rude and nasty remarks by people and their glaring eyes.
“Akeli ja rai ho? Hum bhi challain saath,” shouted out a local passerby.
(Are you going alone? Should I join you.)
I noticed that in one of the shops, the moment a woman left the shop carrying bags (filled with items bought from that very shop), the shopkeepers started commenting on her looks, gait, eyebrows, and on a lot more other things as well. About a woman wearing a sleeveless kameez, one of the shopkeepers remarked,
“Moti aunty burhapay mai jawani dikha rai hai.”
(That fat woman is trying to act young in her old age.)
Of course, I am not the only woman who has had such a terrible experience – there are countless others who endure this on a daily basis. One of my very close friends, fond of making clothes, was terribly harassed by her tailor. So traumatised was she, that she never returned to his shop – not even to collect her bag that she left there while the tailor was taking her measurements.
This doesn’t happen only to women who dress in western clothes; even if they are, as one would say, fully covered up, men will still whistle and stare.
For instance, a friend’s female domestic help had her dupatta snatched when she, covered from head to toe, was crossing a busy road in a relatively affluent and safe neighbourhood of Karachi.
A teenage girl, an acquaintance, had a traumatic experience while she was travelling on the public bus every day while going to and from university, with men touching her almost routinely. In the end, she stopped using public transport altogether.
This is most frustrating because instead of punishing the men who harassed her on a daily basis, the absence of any mechanism that would help achieve this, meant that the poor girl had to make the sacrifice of foregoing public transport.
While Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is going around covering acid victims, who is to speak for the girls who are harassed everyday, twice or even thrice a day?
Food for thought, isn’t it?
Follow Rumaisa on Twitter @RumaisaBilal
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