#KhadijaTheFighter: Democracy may have won yesterday but justice continues to lose
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!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.