#KhadijaTheFighter: Democracy may have won yesterday but justice continues to lose

Published: July 29, 2017
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In Siddiqi’s case, the questions asked by the accused are in themselves a form of harassment. PHOTO: TWITTER

Khadija Siddiqi’s case and her bravery amidst all the chaos has continued to serve as a lesson for women to hold their heads up high and fight against injustice.

A year later, her case is still going strong with the accused bringing forth the most absurd arguments out of desperation to win the case. Clearly, the only thing working in his favour is the power his father holds in the legal fraternity.

Siddiqi, a law student at a local college, was stabbed 23 times in broad daylight on May 3, 2016 by 21-year-old Shah Hussain, the son of an influential lawyer, when she had gone to pick up her younger sister from the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Lahore.

Yet, she still has not received the justice she deserves.

In a hierarchal system like the one in Pakistan, one can hardly expect to see someone win against a powerful entity even when the powerful have committed the wrongest of deeds. No matter how right the opposition might be, it is seldom that we witness the right side gain victory against the privileged.

Privilege does not only come from money and status, it also comes with being a male in this society, and that is what Hussain thinks will give him advantage over his female victim.

An important fact to take into consideration while analysing this case is that Siddiqi and Hussain used to be friends up until a year before he attacked her. However, the friendship ended when Hussain started acting forceful towards her.

In addition, Siddiqi has admitted that Hussain also hacked her accounts. This incident alone reinforces the notion that in many cases, violence against women is most likely to be perpetuated by friends, partners or other male relatives of a victim, especially if the victim is a girl.

One of the most problematic issues arising from this trial is the way Siddiqi was cross-examined. As if the accused had not already endured enough, she was put to further test by the kind of questions she was asked in court. Since the general Pakistani public bestows the honour of a family onto women, the objectives of the questions asked in the trial court of the victim were extremely personal and outright irrelevant to the case.

However, it was evident that the accused would stoop to the farthest level of inappropriateness in order to try and win this case, even if it meant falsely tarnishing the victim’s reputation in public.

The victim was questioned about the validity of her virginity. In what world does a girl’s virginity being intact or otherwise have to do with her being stabbed heartlessly by a partner or anyone else? Why are women constantly having to prove themselves to be virgins in order to receive respect and most importantly, to be granted justice when they have been hurt or treated badly?

The embarrassment didn’t end with the absurd questions about Siddiqi’s sexuality. Yes, it gets worse. Because Siddiqi and Hussain maintained a friendly relationship in the past, the accused deemed it fair to share personal pictures of the two together so as to intimidate her into dropping the charges. Not to mention the fact that the private pictures shared confidentially between the two were put forward in court without the victim’s consent.

Any person with even the slightest bit of intellect would know that such pictures will hold no substance in a case like this, but it seems like Hussain thought otherwise. When the Judicial Magistrate, Mubashar Hussain Awan, out rightly dismissed the applications and pictures of the victim, many of us saw rays of hope.

This typical trend of men threatening women, especially friends or partners, about revealing personal pictures is getting out of hand. With social media being just a touch away, it has become increasingly easy to share information. A simple ‘send’ button can actually create severe and life-threatening situations for people, especially for girls who come from extremely conservative backgrounds.

Luckily enough, however, Siddiqi has been strong enough and stood her ground, not letting this disgusting incident weaken her resolve to fight for herself till the end. Her family and friends have showed major support and have proved to stand by her during this time.

Speaking about the trend of sharing personal pictures, the action itself has been given a name because that is how common it has become. This term is known as ‘revenge porn’. It is a form of image-based sexual abuse. Creating and/or distributing sexually explicit images without consent is seriously harming and often results in mental and physical injuries. It is a form of harassment and often part of a pattern of forceful domestic abuse. Not only that, but it is also a breach of the fundamental rights to privacy, sexual autonomy and dignity. Since the victims of this form of abuse are mostly women, they are forced offline, and blamed and targeted for expressing themselves sexually through imagery.

Revenge porn is actually recognised as a crime in California, and in fact, courts have declared it as a form of domestic violence. The law, passed in 2013, makes it illegal to distribute sexual images or videos of someone without their consent, so long as it is intended to cause serious emotional distress and so long as the person depicted experiences distress.

Under this law, for a first misdemeanour offence, a perpetrator would face up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If the victim is a minor or if the perpetrator has prior convictions for revenge porn, the punishment may be increased to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine. Even though the existing law in California criminalises revenge porn committed through technology, it can still be applied to Siddiqi’s case because the pictures used were clearly without her consent and were used with the intention to cause emotional distress.

In Siddiqi’s case, the questions asked by the accused are in themselves a form of harassment. What Siddqui or any other girl does in her personal relationships is her right because, as a human, she should have the autonomy to act upon her rights and not be made to feel ashamed of her decisions later.

On the other hand, the man’s deeds are not even considered to be recognised as wrong because of… wait for it… his male privilege.

Siddiqi’s case is another example of the common ‘blame the victim’ rhetoric. It doesn’t matter whether a girl is raped or whether she has been physically harmed in various other ways, what it comes down to is the security of the attacker, especially if the attacker is a man of privilege.

What we need is comprehensive legal reform. What this means is that all countries across the world need to officially criminalise the sharing of private sexual images without consent, whatever the motivation of the perpetrator. However, the judicial magistrate deciding not to entertain the pictures shared in court proved to be a huge step towards making this law a reality in the future.

The decision for Siddiqi’s case will be announced today and one can only hope that the hard work of the lawyers and Siddiqi’s strict determination will reel in positive results.

Nevertheless, Siddiqi represents the battle against the toxic masculine mentality itself and I know for a fact that I stand with #KhadijaTheFighter!

Purniya Awan

Purniya Awan

The writer is a Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies graduate from York University. She has been nominated as a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum, is a Founding Member of a Pakistani legal blog, Courting The Law, and is also the Co-Founder of The Gender Stories (TGS). She identifies as a feminist, and is currently working in Pakistan as a Publicist and as the Head of Social Media Marketing. She tweets @purniyaA (twitter.com/PurniyaA?lang=en)

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

  • Azam Khan

    The CJ should take notice of this case.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Of all the feminists currently writing for ET, you are by far the craziest.

    First, you got the year wrong. The girl was stabbed in 2016, not 2017.

    Second, the culprit’s father, being a lawyer, used loopholes within our legal system to delay the case. There was no male privilege or conspiracy at play here, but a system of due process which was manipulated by Hussain’s father to delay proceedings. The evidence is quite clear, the judgment has been reserved and the young man will very likely be convicted. Rightfully so.

    Men from all sections of society overwhelmingly came out in support of Khadija Siddiqui and against the injustice done to her. Blogs, twitter and fb were full of support for her by men who spread awareness. Reporters covered her case at every step. The Lahore High Court Chief Justice who took notice of the case and instructed speedy judicial process is a man. The prosecutor who counselled Khadija is a man. No one has given Hussain any leeway because of his “male privilege” but because his father, Tanvir Hashmi’s used his influence in the bar. But that doesn’t fit your feminist narrative, does it?

    In 2015, the son of an influential politician murdered a teenage orphan boy named Zain. In the course of the trial, witnesses changed statements, evidence went missing and the politician’s son walked scot-free. Not from an assault trial….but murder. No one cares about the murder of young men in this country? Or is it more about influential people abusing the justice system?

    If Khadija was a young man named Khalid, you wouldn’t care about his assault. But since she is a woman, she provides perfect material for your feminist victimhood narrative. Her plight is nothing but a card in your hand to be played and used to paint men, all men without exception, as evil misogynists. You are simply using her case as a cover to spread your usual vitriol against men in the rest of the blog. You could not care less about poisoning all the support that men have for Khadija Siddiqui.

    “Revenge porn”, “forceful domestic abuse”, “violence is perpetrated by male friends, relatives, partners if the victim is a female”, “toxic masculine mentality”. The whole article reeks of your mistrust and hatred of men, trying to preach similar hatred to other women. Disgusting.

    There is no low that feminists will not sink to in order to promote their agenda of men-hatred. This blog stands as evidence.Recommend

  • Awais

    Bravo….Recommend

  • abidawaan

    today i read in a news paper that the culprit has been sentenced to 7 years in prison although he remains at large and is yet to be arrested.Recommend

  • Striver

    It is true there are issues in every society but our writers who have had a bit exposure to western education tend to exaggerate the issues facing women in Pakistan.
    This is not to deny that women do not face unfair stumbling blocks in a patriarchal (or even in an anti, quasi or un-patriarchal) society, sexual harassment and exploitation. PK as any other country needs to sort this out.
    Problem is in men not women. Men must be educated on women’s rights, how to not to violate them and how not to let others overstep them.
    Our budding writers need to learn the art of telling the truth and not be melodramatic.Recommend

  • Ali Raza

    Well done!Recommend

  • Ali Raza

    Offender (Male) has been convicted for 7 years prison by Honorable Judge (Male). Chill out!Recommend

  • MR.X

    She studies gender studies, what do you expect, everything is oppression and patriarchy to them. Shes an annoying feministRecommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    If men are all bad then why do you feminists entangle with them in the first place?Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    “There is no low that feminists will not sink to in order to promote their agenda of men-hatred.”
    Yet they get low on men to satisfy themselves, these feminists and their confused urges.Recommend

  • Alisha Deshmukh

    “Siddiqi represents the battle against the toxic masculine mentality”
    Feminist tend to gravitate towards toxic masculine mentality, then complain about it when the shit hits the fan. Such behavior is counter product at best. Destructive to society at worst. They make for their own worst enemies.Recommend

  • Rua

    This comment itself proves the point that the writer tried to make. Please, the few good men in the country, stop playing the devil’s advocate. This sick routine of ‘not all men’ makes you equal to the others ‘many bad men’. At the same time, let’s reverse this. If the man had been stabbed by a woman, could the idea of ‘intimate photos’ and virginity be entertained? Would a man be cross-questioned about his sexuality and virgin status? Furthermore, how many times do you see a woman become fatally obsessed with her male friend, hack his accounts and bully him through the threat of leaking photos?
    This article is not without its flaws but your acidic tone and extremely salty comments do point out your flaws, such as: you have no real idea of plight of women and the word empathy doesn’t ring a bell in your brain. You could have said it in a better way or even linked to the actual subject of the article, Khadija, with more comprehensive logic. Yet, you chose to target feminists and the ridicule the concepts simply used (not even fabricated, these are real issues) by the writer. You are no better than any radical feminist, you over-privileged warrior without a cause.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    There are not “a few good men” and “many bad men” in the country. feminists tend to focus more on the few bad ones while ignoring the overwhelming number of good ones.

    Take a good, hard look at this picture of Khadija standing with her lawyers.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bf42f7ad4a36124719fead0a8d8245359f93ebd29c5534bc2c367363c8e788ec.jpg

    Guess which gender her counselors are? Men.

    The judge who convicted Hussain? Also a man.

    Media and activists that covered her case were also mostly men.

    When the defense tried to bring irrelevant material regarding Khadija into the assault case, did the judge consider it? Or was it all thrown apart like the irrelevant junk that it was?

    Did Hussain’s “male privilege” play any role in the court’s decision? Was he given any leeway simply because of his gender?

    feminists keep saying that men are privileged however there is not a shred of evidence that Hussain received any “privilege” because of his gender throughout this case. Male privilege is a myth.Recommend

  • Masood Uttra

    Horrible. A famous quote ” in-justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ” No more words….Recommend