Why can’t Pakistani men stop staring at women?

Published: March 16, 2016

So many pairs of eyes were ogling me, some pretended that they were not staring if I made any eye contact and some were simply dheet (shameless). PHOTO: DNA INDIA

The four and a half months I spent in Turkey as an exchange student were the best part of my life. But after a while of living there, I had already started to miss my family and friends and couldn’t wait to be back with my loved ones in the country where my home existed. But there was something I had forgotten about my home country.

The day I was flying back to Pakistan, while waiting at the Istanbul Airport’s lounge, I realised what I had forgotten and what was awaiting me in Karachi. The excitement of returning home slowly began to fade when the thought of seeing so many Pakistanis after such a long time dawned on me, because with Pakistanis comes an uncomfortable and constant leering by men.

During my time in Turkey, I travelled a lot, and that too all, alone but not once was I uncomfortable or scared. Sitting and waiting at the Istanbul airport, surrounded with the people of my country, with whom I can relate, gave me a feeling of insecurity. Uncles and boys were staring at me. Not just me but other girls too. It was very uncomfortable for me, may be because I was no longer used to people looking at me without blinking. I got up and rushed to the washroom to escape the gawking eyes.

That wasn’t the end of it.

The real show began when, at the Karachi airport, I was waiting for my luggage to arrive. I was the only girl there without any family member or friend by her side. So many pairs of eyes were ogling me, some pretended that they were not staring if I made any eye contact and some were simply dheet (shameless).

I still shudder to recall a boy in that red, body-hugging, silk shirt. He would come in front of me every now and then, and make me cringe with his piercingly sharp stares. I wanted to cry and just run away from the situation.

As soon as I collected my luggage, I scurried outside the airport mindlessly assuming that I was headed towards safety. Little did I know that the stares would increase drastically! There were new characters in my living nightmare. From ‘gutka’ boys to toothless uncles, all had their eyes on me. Their sexual frustration was very evident on their faces. I felt disgusted to the extent that I prayed,

Zameen phat jaye aur wo sab uss main saama jayen.”

(I hope the earth opens up and swallows all of them whole!)

Yes, I was so terribly seething with anger that I wanted the end of their existence from this planet.

This wasn’t a first, nor was I alien to this hobby of sexually frustrated Pakistani men. I have experienced this from a very young age. It’s not just me but every other girl in this country who has this complain and is disturbed by this behaviour.

If a girl is waiting for her bus or van, people passing in cars not only stare but even honk to grab her attention. In fact, a girl in Lahore recently posted a status on Facebook about the exact same thing. She said when she gave the boys in the car no attention, despite them calling out to her and honking at her, they purposely sped up and hit her bicycle, causing her to fall off and receive injuries.

Similarly, in market places it is very common among men to catcall and sometimes whisper Masha’Allah leaving a woman flustered and feeling harassed. And the addas (fixed spots) that drivers have, where each and every step of the girls passing by is observed, inspected and discussed. It is not that only men deprived of education are into this distasteful hobby, but this activity is also popular amongst the literate. Last week, while waiting with friends at university, we were ‘checked out’ by the boys sitting behind us. One of them would say something that would make other two look at us and pass a remark or two about us.

This issue is highly disturbing. Being in my own country, it is unfair that I don’t feel free and safe. These rubbernecking eyes refuse to look away until a girl creates a scene or screams,

“Masla kya hai?”

(What is your problem?)

Why has it become a challenge for a girl to move without hundreds of eyes on her? Why is the infuriating phrase, “bachi check kar” (check out that chick) not considered offensive anymore?

Whenever, I see men leering at women, I have a strong desire to poke my fingers into his eye balls and scream,

“STOP STARING AT US, YOU CREEP!”

Of all this, what makes me the angriest is when wives or mothers sit right next to these men, their husbands or sons, pretending to be completely oblivious of the ogling spree they are going on. They sit indifferent to their men gaping at other females with drooling faces.

The men of this society have become so shameless that things like, “Kya masla hai” (What is your problem?), “Ghar mein maa behan nahi hain?” (Haven’t you got mothers or sisters at home?) and “Kya dekh rahay ho?” (What are you staring at?), do not affect them anymore. But I am quite sure that if the women who accompany them grab their collars or they are given public beatings by the police, it would definitely teach them a lesson. Perhaps, that is the only way to beat the frustration out of these creepy men.

Do you think Pakistani men have a staring problem?

     View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Call-to-action: Have you or anyone you know been a victim of harassment? Share your story with us! Email your experience to us, in a blog-post, at, [email protected]

Amna Ahmad Zamani

Amna Ahmad Zamani

The author is an undergraduate media student at the Institute of Business Management, Karachi. She tweets as @amna_zamani (twitter.com/amna_zamani)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • The Truth Bro

    Evidence suggests that countries that are less religious have less problems with men staring at women.

    There is less religiosity in the west hence less restrictions and hurdles for men to intermingle with women and vice versa, which in turn alleviates such social problems.Recommend

  • shahid zamir

    A piece of crap ………… i am glad that the author got a chance to visit outside Pakistan, i assume she was mainly busy in sightseeing that she didn’t notice the roving eyes of Turkish Men………… well every one who has lived outside Pakistan (i mean lived not traveled) will agree that this staring/ openly flirting is every where in this globe………… i have seen girls being harassed in LA, guys on the streets of NYC openly trying to flirt and asking for cell numbers, but not everyone do it in USA. ………….. I agree that we as a nation should give space to females and respect their individuality and privacy but blaming ONLY Pakistani Men for staring is totally wrong ……… further, you cant criticize whole nation for the act of few thousand people, you have simply generalized this thing by saying “why cant Pakistani Men” …………. not every man stare here ………… in Pakistan it has become a FASHION to sensationalize things and only talk about bad things as it sells and become popular thing, if this blog was written to get likes, shares and comments from public, then Kudos else i will stick with the first sentence of my comment.Recommend

  • Hot Choclate

    Staring is our social problem but the writer is over reacting. These kind of girls do keep checking guys and at the same time complain when someone looks at them. :-)Recommend

  • Maryam Khan

    I personally think it is not about religion it is about the mindset, social ethics and punishments…and we rarely have the last two, that is the issue. If we stand up for ourselves and for other girls as well like the west did, we can end this issueRecommend

  • Ramsha Asim

    I do agree with you to some extent. But there is a simple solution to this problem. Do not make their eyes catch you. Cover yourself up with a “dopatta” or “chaddar”. Im not blaming you for your attire that might be. Men are men. Specially Pakistani men. and they will be so. Therefore, the solution to make them stop piercing through your body with their eyes is to just cover up normally.

    Stay safe sister :)Recommend

  • tindre

    Only those men stare at girls who desperately need a gender re-assignment surgery. It is a medical situation. Please have mercy on them. :D
    I dont believe it is anything related to religion. We simply have too much spare time on our disposal. Clueless and lifeless and jobless shirkers have to stare to pass their useless life.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ziad

    The author clearly haven’t been to the streets of New York. Don’t generalize Pakistani men, at least they only stare. Watch this http://metro.co.uk/2014/10/28/100-catcalls-in-10-hours-video-of-woman-walking-streets-with-hidden-camera-will-make-you-think-4925861/Recommend

  • usama

    You had describe one side of problem related to males, females also play some part in it.Recommend

  • shahid

    Its not their fault at all; specially the ones with the beards… most of them, almost all of these kind have their brains shifted from the top of shoulders to a new location, i.e. between their legs;Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Just another side of pictureRecommend

  • Sadia

    For those naive (lack of a better word) enough to say she should wear a veil and and not do makeup and all that, a woman can be covered and makeup less and not “become a commodity in the eyes of a man” and the men will STILL stare. Whether you wear a burqa/chadar/dupatta or you don’t, men STARE. So the problem here lies with men. Not all men, but most.Recommend

  • Samm

    I’m staring at your picture now!Recommend

  • Karachiiite

    I have lived in the US, dubai and Pakistan. One thing for sure is that Despite living in pakistan longer than the other places, i feel most uncomfortable in pakistan because of the people always staring at me. Just for the record I wear Hijab. Men in the US never bothered me, dubai was even better, i could walk on the streets and go to shops with my friends without any worries and comfort but in pakistan every moment in public is so uncomfortable that i feel like never leaving my house unless neccessary. i avoid public spaces and bazaars and always go with my mom or brother if i have to, despite having the freedom to leave the house when i want.

    i have never been secually harassed in the US or Dubai, but have gotten several hit ons and gropes in Pakistan. The street men here are revolting and umcomfortable. no wonder women stay indoors in this country. Im leaving soon. Thankgod. cant wait to take morning walks and bike rides soon.Recommend

  • Milind A

    The social problem is manifested & exacerbated by repression induced by religion…. Take religion away and let sexes mingle freely… Most of this problem will go away…Recommend

  • raj

    this happen in Pakistan regardless of religion. Basic psyche of a man in Pakistan (India or sub continent) is based on Power over women.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Dear Anna, it is not sexual frustration for sure. There is an old saying in Sanskrit that you can’t put off fire with fuel. The more they indulge, more they will crave. I don’t know how the foolish Arabs decided that by letting marry more will keep the other women in the society safe! Appalling culture of Arabs now contaminating Indian subcontinent.Recommend

  • Midhat Shahab

    I frequently visit NewYork and can comfortably walk the streets alone even in the late hours. And Despite spending 20 some years in Pakistan I dread walking just a few streets in Karachi because of the staring, gawking, and catcalling menaceRecommend

  • Soraya Aziz

    There are so many reasons that Pakistani men stare at women, main being that they have little opportunity to engage with women in schools, colleges, in their villages etc.
    I am afraid being a British born and brought up up in London, issues of men behaving inappropriatly exist everywhere and at different levels.
    In Pakistan, I often confront the men. They very quickly stop and are very embarassed which I dont find to be the case in the West.
    TBH, its simply better to rise above and ignore.
    The world is full of strange people!Recommend

  • Midhat Shahab

    May be you belong to the minority”cultured men” but the majority of men on the streets just gawk women unashamedly. cat calling, groping and staring is very common on our streets. And I have spent time in Turkey and Living in USA for quite some time. You cant even compare what goes on in Pakistan to what happens in US, or Turkey. Pakistani street men just cant share public space with women without making women feeling disgustedRecommend

  • Midhat Shahab

    You have no idea then how Pakistani men treat women in Public spaces. I have tried the most modest of dressings but they just wont stop gawking.Recommend

  • Midhat Shahab

    Men stare and cat call women even in “chaddars”. Having said that makeup or what women chose to wear doesnt give any man to act like a savage. They should know how to control them selves and behave decentRecommend

  • Ali Imam

    We have the problem here in London as well. Mostly desi men who have migrated as students of all ages or economic migrants usually give the stares in tubes, trains and other public places. Some are stubborn not to take their eyes off upon making contact. I had to ask the reason from one of them in a friendly way and he was under impression that females do not care and putting up a display on for them. While a tiny female minority (regardless of race) may entertain these stares, it is extremely annoying to bear the ‘stares’ and to hear rude comments like “teri wali”, “teri bhabhi hai” etc. topped up by “iski maa ki” and “behan ki” sometimes despite the fact there are other Asian females present who can understand their lingo.Recommend

  • Midhat Shahab

    Oh stop. Land wasnt created for only men. Sahabiyaats have worked, fought in wars and attend all prayers in Jamaats at the time of the Prophet. Its not Islam but the misogynist men who just cant behave culturedRecommend

  • Midhat Shahab

    Maybe you should guard your sight! Problem solvedRecommend

  • ab

    latest lawn shlawar kameez with even duppata is not the answer to what is modest dressingRecommend

  • Saqib Ali Rana

    yeah i thought that as wellRecommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Staring is the least form of sexual discrimination. Eve teasing, harassing, following somebody etc are various grades that may or may not leading to molestation/ rape etc.
    These have nothing to do with religion.
    The more you suppress something, the more it comes out in vicarious ways.
    Open society (like in West) is a way forward. Boys and Girls should be allowed to interact freely. This decreases the chance of staring and other harassments.
    India is equally a sick society but this kind of thing is less in places like Mumbai.Recommend

  • Hamza

    Really?…………. you never get stared at at Istanbul……………. think again sister………….Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Even being an atheist I have read Quran. Go and read “an nisa”.Recommend

  • Read Below

    Please read the quran. All restrictions on women are mentioned in it.

    You can even read the hadith books that came afterwards.

    Quran does not allow freedom of women hence a good muslim is not suppose to support female freedom.Recommend

  • Read Below

    Most states in India that were dominated by the arab invaders (pakistan and states attached to pakistan) have severe social problems, germinating predominantly from muslim populations.Recommend

  • Striver

    you’ve not read it Recommend

  • relyables

    its true but much more exagerated Recommend

  • Ammara

    The problem is with these molvis who are Muslim extremists. Females have freedom if they cover their body and head completely. I believe that Islam is the perfect religion but Muslims are not. Recommend

  • humyCher

    I had to stay at a train station in Norway, alone all night. Not for a second I felt insecure or stares following me. I wondered why the sick mentality of Pakistanis is the way it is. I will be returning to Pk after my post doc soon, and I am very worried of how I would be able to survive there.Recommend

  • Red Man

    Pakistani men are just perverted.Recommend

  • ammi katrin
  • Shahid

    Pakistan men is not only interested girls they are interested in men toRecommend