#PunishSadatBashir: Are 80 voices not proof enough?

Published: June 1, 2018
SHARES
Email

You are not innocent until proven guilty – 80 victims cannot be wrong! PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ SABA ALI

Online feminist campaigns such as #MeToo have brought down many titans of toxic masculinity. Famous international cases include James Dean, a famous adult actor who was accused by many women of sexually assaulting them. The House of Cards star and Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey too was accused by a man of sexually assaulting him and is currently under police investigation, after having his contract with Netflix ended for his shameful conduct.

The never-ending list of accused also includes other former legends like Bill Cosby and recent addition, Morgan Freeman. In all these cases, the allegations have been and are undergoing investigation by relevant authorities. Careers have taken a hit and apologies/clarifications have been issued.

In contrast, when Meesha Shafi spoke up about Ali Zafar sexually harassing her, she was witch-hunted till she had to deactivate her Instagram account, and was a recipient of more abuse than support. There was nothing that was not questioned about her; men and women on social, electronic and print media assassinated her character left, right and centre.

Perhaps we can blame some people for being too unaware or uneducated as to not understand the deep-rooted patriarchy involved in the response. But it was truly shocking to see the self-proclaimed anchor Mubasher Lucman and his all-female guests, including Resham, questioning Shafi’s character, emotional stability and reasons for coming out now. This attitude has now transcended to a level where more than 80 college girls are enduring what Shafi did.

Saba Ali, a student of Bahria College, reported on her Fscebook account that she was sexually assaulted during her biology exam by her invigilator, Sadat Bashir.

Photo: Screenshot

“He groped me twice, once when I went for the model recognition and he touched my butt, and second when I was making the slides. He came behind me and traced my bra strap, all the while pretending he was just examining my slide.”

She is not alone, 79 other girls have also allegedly been harassed by him and 18 of them have recorded their testimonies online.

“After I was done writing I visually realised a hand was extending to my chest.”

Let that sink in. Eighty girls no older than 18 were sexually harassed by their invigilator. Current and former students of other universities and schools, including the prestigious Army Public School, have come forward and narrated similar incidences. It seems that Bashir is obviously a pervert who has not been investigated for many years, despite being reported numerous times.

Bashir, however, denies having sexually harassed the 80 victims and claims he is being victimised because the educational institutions wanted him to award maximum marks to their students. I fail to understand how he has equated the two issues together. But I don’t want to delve on his response because his argument is self-defeating.

What is appalling is that it took a lot of outcry and numerous tweets, under #PunishSadatBashir, by these brave girls and their allies (including many celebrities) to get a reaction from authorities, after days of being originally reported by Saba. I want to give a special shoutout to lawmaker Shaza Fatima Khawaja, who was the first one to raise her voice in the parliament against this incident.

What has happened is an unfortunate and infuriating incident and needs to be investigated, and Bashir needs to be prosecuted for his reprehensible actions. But what terrifies me more is the deep-rooted misogyny and patriarchy in our society. Shafi was called a slut for coming out with her story. These girls are now going through the same name-calling and victim-blaming.

Photo: Screenshot

I wish I could name and shame the patriarchs but they are far too many. However, I do refuse to call them apologists. Apologists are people making excuses for a certain behaviour. A patriarch is someone perpetuating that behaviour. Character assassination often involves invasion of the victim’s privacy, which is a fundamental human right and should be protected even if the patriarchs are too toxic to respect it.

Women are conditioned to internalise the violence they go through by parents and sometimes even by their friends. They are told to ignore the predatory behaviour otherwise it will hurt their reputation. They are told to cover themselves instead of speaking out, they are asked to avoid going to certain places rather than punishing the harassers and keeping them off the streets. People like these, who call victims ‘not less than a slut’ or someone who was ‘asking for it’ are the cause of female subjugation.

The difference between us and the developed countries is that they actually investigate and prosecute abusers. Maybe we should take a lesson from the US, they took action against the accused, which gave strength to other survivors of sexual violence to come forward. We, on the other hand, call them names and put them down. Even Saudi Arabia has outlawed sexual harassment recently, which would introduce a prison term of up to five years and a penalty of 300,000 riyals ($80,000).

Our society also seems to suffer from amnesia because we have forgotten what happened just a few months ago in our very own country. We collectively stood up to demand justice for Zainab Ansari; however, we refuse to extend the same courtesy to these 80 girls. We will not only forget but fail Zainab if we continue to allow these patriarchs and misogynists spew their venom against victims of sexual violence. By making excuses for the predator or questioning the victim, we are encouraging more rapists and predators to take form.

We keep asking the woman to give evidence of her assault and not once do we question the man’s behaviour. In this case, not one, not two but 80 girls have been the victims at the hands of this predator. Are 80 voices not proof enough compared to his? Is that not evidence enough? Should that not put all our “doubts” to rest? Because if that isn’t enough, sadly nothing will ever be enough! It seems that in this society we are not looking to demand justice for the victim, we are looking to absolve the perpetrator and turn a blind eye.

Saba in her status mentioned that the girls were wearing their uniforms and weren’t parading around in some revealing dress. We should be ashamed as a society that a girl had to clarify what she was wearing in order for society to think that her harassment accusation is “acceptable”. She probably said that because she knew that this is one of the first million demeaning questions she would be asked before society can finally ask for justice for her. You see, we obviously have to make sure that a person accusing someone of harassment fits our criteria of a “real” victim!

Shame on you, Imran Arshad, the killer of little Zainab. Shame on you, Sadat Bashir (you are not innocent until proven guilty – 80 victims cannot be wrong). And shame on all you patriarchs and apologists!

Shame on us for not standing up with the victims and speaking for them earlier. Justice delayed is justice denied. Bashir should be immediately arrested and investigated, and the likes of him should be shunned from our society forever, and more importantly, be made an example of.

Sabeer.Lodhi

Sabeer Lodhi

The author is studying at Monash University, Melbourne. He is a student and supporter of human rights with a focus on gender equality, minority rights and feminism. He tweets as @sabeerlodhi (twitter.com/sabeerlodhi)

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

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    It’s shame that this predator is still free. He should be hanged or spend rest of his life in jail. Shame on families of these poor girls esp. their fathers and brothers who are not taking it seriously.Recommend

  • Ahsan

    No 80 voices are not *proof enough*, 80 ppl have collectively lied in the past human history dozens of times, so stop being emotional about it, 80 voices is a strong *allegation* that needs to be thoroughly investigated and examined by the law of the state and if found true should result in a conviction. This mob mentality that 80ppl have said it so it must be true is very very dangerous. Following the set law doesn’t and won’t make you any less of a human right activist so please follow the law and stop advocating that ’80 allegations is a conviction’.Recommend

  • Sara

    Sabeer Lodhi.. well written.. i totally agree with you!!!!!!Recommend

  • s.i.

    Care to share some of those “dozens of time”? I bet you have never even read a history book (or any other book) in your life. These vague references to history are something Pakistanis are amazingly good at, in the absence of concrete knowledge obviously.

    BTW, is this your reaction when/if your sister, daughter, wife, mother, friend comes to you and tells that she has been harrassed? You doubt them? You ask for further proofs?

    And he isn’t calling for outright conviction. Just immediate investigation.Recommend

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    These girls are not a mob nor a third party. They are badly hurt victims. Would you ask your mother or sister to show evidence or shut up when they accuse someone. Show some sense..Recommend

  • Patwari

    You are supporter of Bashir. You have your reasons.
    And you are devoid of any morals. It is people like you
    that keeps Pakland, behind the rest of the world, by a 100 milesRecommend

  • fae

    khadija siddiqi was stabbed in broad daylight and has the scars to prove it, her case was “thoroughly investigated and examined by the law” as you said but did that result in a conviction of her assailant? No, he walks free just like the the millions of murders, abusers and rapists, many of whose names never reach social media or even the courts because women know that people who have the same mindset as yours are the ones who are sitting in positions of power in the court of law. So no matter how much proof these women bring out, there will always be skeptics like you who see men as default angels and women as fitna.Recommend

  • Aaisha Shahid

    you don’t fight cases on the facebook or twitter… There’s a real world out there where we have FIRs and courts and lawyers.Recommend