She was forced to parade around naked, but instead of helping her, we photo’d her and shared it on social media

Published: November 11, 2017

A woman adjusts her scarf as the sun sets over Kashmir's Dal Lake in Srinagar July 18, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

Recently, a 16-year-old girl was forcefully stripped and paraded around the streets of a village in Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province. The reason given was that she was ‘paying the price for her brother’s crimes’. Her brother had allegedly gotten involved in a relationship with a girl from the village. To resolve the matter, he had already been fined by the local jirga and the tehsil nazim. But obviously, some hot-blooded relatives were not satisfied and decided to pay back in the same coin.

While the news itself was both saddening and infuriating, it reiterated the bitter truth that in our country, women are still treated as men’s property, to be used at their whim for pleasure, inflicting pain or even to be used as payback.

But what was more horrifying was the fact that a picture, allegedly of the girl bearing the punishment, was going viral on social media.

The picture, taken from afar, shows a young girl standing stark naked, covering her private parts with her hands. Standing across the narrow lane, in the middle, is a group of men silently staring, either at the girl or themselves. While I can’t even bear to look at the picture again, not even for the sake of writing this piece, it is being circulated on Facebook, apparently to create ‘awareness’.

For me, reading the brief detail of the incident was enough to try to imagine the pain, shame and shock which the girl had to face. I did not need visual proof for this news, no one did. So then what added information is being disseminated through this picture? How many men were looking? How did the girl look? How naked was she or was the verbal description exaggerated? How did she manage to bury herself in shame? Was the day sunny or cloudy? Were there some patches of shrubs or trees around to provide some cover?

Do we really need answers to these questions?

What I was able to see in the picture was that the onlookers had kept themselves at a considerable distance, as if the child was a leper, as if it was better to stay away in case dishonour or shame was a contagious disease. What I was also able to judge from the picture was that no man tried to cover the girl, no man’s ghairat (honour) was invoked to see a sister-like or daughter-like female being forced to bare all. No one tried to lend any piece of cloth – a chaddar or even one’s shirt – to drape her. They all simply stared, too numb to react, too afraid to raise a voice, or maybe too smitten to give up a free porn show.

What I want to know is that whoever raised his phone to take the picture, did he think of using the same phone to call the police or anyone related to that girl? It is being reported that the girl was forced to parade in this appalling condition for an hour; it must have taken at least a few minutes to bring her in this condition. What I don’t know is that where were her relatives – anyone, a cousin, uncle or aunt – during all this time? What I want to ask is why a boy wasn’t chosen for the payback, although having asked this question does not mean to suggest that men do not possess any honour or do not deserve any respect. But why was a woman chosen as revenge for a crime that her brother had allegedly committed?

A case was later registered against the culprits responsible for the incident. Eight suspects have been arrested so far. Four of them confessed to the crime and later claimed that this was done under pressure from the police authorities, while the other four denied the charges. However, the prime suspect, identified as Sajawal, is still on the run. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA, Dawar Khan Kundi, in a letter written to his party chief, Imran Khan, claims that he personally investigated the matter and discovered the PTI K-P Revenue minister, Ali Amin Gandapur, to be responsible for harbouring the accused. Kundi has demanded the removal of his fellow party member from the ministry.

While a bill asking for action in the case has also been submitted to the provincial assembly, it seems that the lawmakers of our country are undecided as to whom they should support. A girl whose honour has been tarnished is forced to hide and hang her head in shame, but her perpetrators still play around with confessions and denials, in possible hope of being safely acquitted.

But what about the sickening mindset that led these people to commit such horrendous crimes? While those behind this tragic incident do deserve to be punished in a lawful manner, has anyone thought of taking steps to change the mentality of these people? In such incidents mostly, women in opposing parties are subjected to rape or abuse because they believe that is the only way they can tarnish their rival’s honour – by targeting their women. The current incident is no exception, except it may prove to be even more traumatising.

Where literacy is the key to fight the outcomes of ignorance, moral education is a move which should be considered and practiced on an urgent basis to try and change the disgusting way we treat women in our society. The village elders, clerics, teachers can lecture villagers on the importance of protecting each other’s sanctity and should use arguments from both civic and religious segments to eradicate age-old beliefs of honour killing and ‘honour raping’ to restore order.

They should explain that dragging an innocent person in dirt can never cleanse anyone from impurities. They should inform the people that using legal channels, giving moral lessons and even using the jirga system fairly and moderately can solve issues. It might be difficult for the change of mindset to happen from within these areas, hence people from outside need to contribute to the well-being of the society by educating residents and then training them.

And most importantly, we, the literate users of social media, should practice some responsibility too. The phone or any other electronic device is not a toy to play with; social media platforms are not channels of entertainment. Their purpose is mainly to stay connected, share items which contribute in some way to the welfare and well-being of society. It is also used to create awareness about different subjects and also, in some cases, to hold debates and discussions. But if these are the kind of images we wish to portray and if this is the quality of news we want to update others with, I think it is better that we leave this responsibility to the more authentic sources of information.

It saddens one’s heart to think about the aftermath. How and when would the girl muster courage to walk out on the streets from her confinements? Would she receive sympathy or rehabilitation, or would she forever be subjected to blame, source of dishonour and a ‘stay-away’ attitude?  If this effort receives some suggestions in return, I would then like to believe that social responsibility is a target not so difficult to achieve.

Shabana Mahfooz

Shabana Mahfooz

The author is a senior media professional with experience in Broadcast Journalism. She has a keen interest and writes on topics of women's rights, foreign affairs, social and cultural issues. She can be reached at [email protected]

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

  • Umer

    The picture was fake. At least do some research before writing.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    This is horrible and is going on in Pakistan very regularly. Pakistani men must show mirror to themselves and ask what crimes they are committing against women. This is a shameful and cowardly act committed by bunch of bigot against hapless single young woman. Shame on them. and shame on the society.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    If the picture was fake, the situation is then even worse. Someone used the incident to utilise either his/her creative skills or simply to gain some popularity on social media. If a fake photograph is used to sensationalise an incident, it shows a sick mentality. And instead of condemning the picture, it was shared on media, basically the issue is that inappropriate visual details are used for serious incidents instead of providing solutions.Recommend

  • andy bal

    this is second time ,i did cry.first,when ,a hindu girl was kidnap by muslim and hindhu parents did not accept her back. this time i can not fathom her sham,helpness and pain of a sixteen years old muslim girl. i felt my self a coward 70 yrs old man,i do not know about men in pakistan. i cannot explain the pain i do feel far away in canada.what should i do,if she is my grand daughter,kill all of th——.Recommend

  • PorkSmasher

    How much this kind of crimes reported in Pakistan and how much goes unnoticed. Otherwise Pakistani news papers will start thumping their chests for rape crimes in India.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    Sadly, this treatment to women is meted out in most societies. In a recent incident when a woman was raped in India on the street in broad daylight, again people preferred taking pictures instead of helping her. All such incidents are shameful.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    Firstly, I had used the word ‘allegedly’ with the picture as complete verification is not available. Secondly, if the picture is fake, the scenario is then even worse. Someone used the picture to further sensationalise the incident and here comes the role of the social media users.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    That woman will get redress in the court in India. But, Alas the girl that was stripped and paraded naked in Pakistan will never get justice.Recommend

  • Milind A

    That women right’s groups are stronger here and she will get justice is a consolation. But that does not address the writer’s basic argument – when will the sick mindsets change? When will people stop losing empathy and stop taking pics of these outrages as they happen.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    A bill is in the process of being tabled in the provincial assembly to tackle such issues. Within the province many voices have been raised, including from those of the ruling party. In today’s age of awareness, no such act can go unnoticed and unaccounted for. It is the mindset which is the real challenge to deal with and the sick mindset knows no boundaries.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    Where the women rights’ groups are stronger is debatable, but you have truly understood the essence of this article. If one by one, we all comprehend and accept the root cause of the problem, I am confident that we would some day be able to eradicate it s well.Recommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    Miss Shabana As Man Who Has Relatives In DI Khan Let Me Tell You That The Story Is BS.I Asked My Family and Friends Over There and They Say That An Altercation Of Sorts Did Happen On Which The Girl Came On The Receiving End.But The Idea of Being Paraded Naked Is Something That Has Been Added To Sensationalize The Entire Story

    Madam Trust Me If Such An Event Happened A Bloodbath Would Have Ensued.You Know Pashtuns We Take To The Bullet For A Lot LessRecommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    @giridesh3:disqus How Can You Say That????? Can Back Up Your Claim How Many Women In India Have Got Justice??????Recommend

  • Ramesh Nakhwa

    Express Tribune sucks. The incident is of KP in Pakistan and photo shows a srinagar woman what is the relation ship ???? Recommend

  • Sane

    Just like families of 2,000 Muslims murdered in Indian Gujarat could not get justice and would never get. Rather the planners and those executed are part of Indian govt.Recommend

  • Ravian

    That picture is not from Pakistan. Either it is India or some Latin American country. Please do some fact checks before plunging headlong into self bashing.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    There should be a strong reaction from the family in that case in my opinion. The girls family is dealing with the police for the case as I read an update. But this is too much of a sensation, it brings bad name not only to the family but to the entire nation.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    Kindly read my reply to Mr. UmerRecommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    Fully Agree With You Madam.That Is Why I Am Always Critical Of These Foreign Funded NGOs Who Champion Women Rights.Just To Increase Their Importance They Try Overplay Events They Would Present 2 As 200.In The Process Our Nation Gets A Bad NameRecommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Those numbers were all manufactured it seems. That many killings and rapes never happened. Congress government in the center spread fake news to malign Modi. So stop spreading fake news.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Oh…That is easy question to answer. More than Pakistani women got justice in Pakistani court. Hope that answers your question.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    There are so many bills and laws in South Asia that Aliens think it is paradise. Laws mean nothing. Patriarchal mindset is the reason. When society thinks men much older can abduct Young girls, convert them and then rape them does not give two hoots to any bill or law. Those will remain intentions & not reality.Recommend

  • Shabana Mahfooz

    You are right. Though legal framework and its implementation is important to keep a check and balance, but it is the mindset which needs to be changed and this is exactly my stress was on. The sick mindset is everywhere, not just India and Pakistan. In developed countries, some mindset has converted, not all. Here, due to lack of education the problem is worse. We hear of incidents on both sides of the border on a daily basis and the mindset needs to change on both sides.Recommend

  • ThePrincekhan999
  • Shah Saeed
  • Yogi Berra

    Dear, It is called honor killing. Not rape. Such crimes get punished. I cannot say 100% rape crimes get prosecuted but honor killings and murders…prosecution rate is high. Alas courts are liberal left in India and believe in human rights of these criminals. They often get lesser punishment in my expert opinion. I would double the sentence in each case if I were to do it.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Do not go by just numbers. You will be amazed how many false rape cases are filed in India when man refuses to marry a woman he has bedded with. She files a case of rape with promise of marriage. The rape problem is serious in South Asia is because courts are left and liberal. They want to protect rights of criminals and not victims. The court should actively think and deliberate how to destroy the very lives of criminals. Instead they delude themselves that criminals will reform in typical south Asian jails. No chance.Recommend