He flashed his private parts at her and told her that raping her would please him – no big deal, right?
The other day, I was randomly scrolling through Facebook when I came across a long post by girl who had been harassed on her way to work by a guy on a bike who flashed his private parts at her. So common, right? Let us just keep scrolling, my brain hinted. There was a video attached to the post as well, and it automatically began playing before I could scroll past it.
As I watched the video, I realised that the car looked oddly familiar, and then I realised that the girl was in fact my own sister. I kept watching as anger engulfed me. I did not realise what I just saw, all of a sudden, every traumatic memory I had came back to me, and once again, I was that girl who was groped inside a school van.
I know that this is common. I know it happens to numerous people on a daily basis. But this was different, this was my sister.
As soon as I collected myself, I called her up to see if she was doing any better. She was not; I could tell from the silence at the end of the line that she was numb. She could barely formulate words, but she did tell me one thing – her silence was not out of fear. She said it was mere anger for the man who thought it was his birthright to call out lewd remarks at her friend sitting in the passenger seat.
Even though the man seemed to be sure of what he was doing, that is, harassing two women who did him no wrong at all, he was also embarrassed to associate himself with his actions. So when the girls started making a video, he turned his face sideways. This raises an important question – do men continue doing these things while knowing fully that they are in the wrong, and if they were exposed, they would have to go through immense shame? He knew that he would not get caught, he would have to endure no consequences. Because obviously, two women were not capable of catching a mighty man on the street and obviously, our legal system was not going to do anything either. Then why did he hide his face?
The only possible explanation is that in Pakistan, and all over the world, men are given the higher ground. They are superior beings, they can do anything and everything and the world will still blame the women, telling them that they are at fault. So he had nothing to worry about because he knew a ‘worse scenario’ for him did not exist and never will.
The comments under the original post were telling my sister to wear a dupatta, because that is what ultimately protects the woman. What I fail to understand is, why are men still telling women what to do to be safe, when they can call out other men for making the city an unsafe place for the ‘other’ gender?
The first thing that came to my mind when I read the post was that her anger is justified. Imagine having to go through someone flashing their private body parts at you and implying that sexually assaulting you would give them pleasure. How is our society so indifferent towards incidents like this? At this point, people do not even bother because what does not directly affect them apparently does not matter.
When my sister finally got to work, people asked her why she was late and she had to say something. Firstly, she was completely traumatised and had to go through several different routes to dodge the perpetrator. And secondly, some men had the audacity to tell her that she should have been carrying a weapon on her, someone even stated that she should have had a rod to hit the man with. I would love to thank them for their consideration…
I do have one question for them though – how many men do they know in Karachi who travel with a rod in one hand and manage a steering wheel and the gears in the other? Clearly, women were born with more problems in their lives but not enough hands to handle those problems.
After all, it was not that bad. The man did not touch her or physically assault her. Why was she making a huge deal about it? Because whether people want to accept the reality or not, harassment is a big deal. Always has been and always will be. Victims should not be silenced, instead the perpetrators should be punished.
All of this has been prevailing in our streets for so long that women have become accustomed to such treatment. But that does not make it okay or acceptable. A little groping here and there in public is just the way it is supposed to be, right? My sister is not the only person I know who has gone through this kind of situation. When I was in the seventh grade, my friend, who was the same age as me, encountered a fully-grown man trying to unzip his trousers to show her his private parts. Imagine – a little girl being exposed to something like that. Imagine the trauma. It was a narrow street and she could not do much so she tried to ignore him and kept on walking.
Incidents like these have scarred women for years and they are still not given the acknowledgement that they deserve. Another friend once narrated a similar incident. She was on her way to work when a man began following her. Apparently, her lipstick was just too tempting for him. Apparently, her make-up was an excuse for him to catcall her when he shouted,
“Gulabi hont, humein bhi chaat lou!”
(Rosy lips, lick us too!)
Imagine going out of your way, following a car to a place that is not your desired destination, just to shout out lecherous remarks to a girl who is minding her own business.
How many more cases will it take for us to understand that this is difficult? With the number of harassment cases increasing day by day, there are still voices that are unheard or too scared to speak up. If more women out there spoke up about their experiences, society would understand how much a victim is affected by something like this. So much so, that there are many women out there who hate the existence of the male gender because of what a few have put them through.
I know that things are changing. In fact, women are rising and I sincerely hope that one day, our voices will be louder and stronger than the entitlement that men in Pakistan have.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.