Stories about harassment

Do Meesha Shafi’s allegations hold no value just because Ali Zafar “looks like a decent guy”?

I remember spending a whole day during school trying to convince my friend how good-looking this new singer was. She disagreed. But as an 11-year-old, I was very persistent, because not only was he good-looking, he was also ordinary. A boy who spent his days making portraits of others at a hotel lobby, who then suddenly went on to be known as Pakistan’s very own Kishore Kumar. But she still disagreed. So I convinced myself that since she was not a Pakistani, she knew little about the country’s beauty. But that was 2003, and today is a different story. Fifteen years ...

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“Safe” public transport for women: He kept whispering his sexual fantasies to me as he masturbated

I am a big advocate for public transport, which is not only an environment-friendly and cost-effective way of transportation, but also the best choice if you don’t want the hassle of driving yourself. However, another caveat of being a woman in Pakistan is the lack of security you feel every time you travel alone.   I happened to travel to Lahore last month for a meeting, and as I usually do, I chose a Daewoo bus for the commute. While I was at the terminal waiting for the bus, I noticed a young man sitting opposite my chair and blatantly staring ...

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With ‘Motorcycle Girl’ and #GirlsOnBikes, Pakistani women take a spin at reclaiming public spaces

Adnan Sarwar, the famed director cum musician of the biographical sports film Shah (2015), is back to mesmerise filmgoers with another biopic – Motorcycle Girl. This time, he dramatises the life of a young Pakistani woman whose real life motorcycle adventures were highlighted across the globe, and played a significant role in breaking the stereotypes surrounding women in a conservative society. Although, Sarwar’s directorial debut Shah, based on life-story of Olympian boxer, Hussain Shah, who won the bronze medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics, received mixed reviews upon its release in Pakistan, his latest venture has been much anticipated. Produced by Jami, ...

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“Dua karo iss dafa beta ho” – Is being a ‘beti’ really the curse it’s made out to be?

Being the fourth daughter my parents were blessed with, I always used to ask them if they had ever wished I had been born a boy. I spent a lot of time wondering if, after having three girls, they were disappointed to see yet another daughter instead of a son. To my relief, my parents always responded to this question with a resounding ‘no’. Rather, they would get surprised and question me instead on the kind of nonsense that fills up my brain with questions such as these.   It is true that I have never felt loved any less by ...

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Why is a Pakistani man’s masculinity so fragile that he can’t handle rejection and resorts to murder?

The scariest possibility of simply expressing your lack of interest in a man may result in – wait for it – your death. Yes, you read that right! This is not even an exaggeration. For many though, this won’t come as a surprise considering the fact that in Pakistan, people reside with extremely conservative mindsets, not to mention the deeply rooted patriarchal cultural that exists here. The misogynistic norms are heavily supported, defended and backed up by this very patriarchal culture. They are contrasted in such a way that gives leverage and power to men to entirely silence (read: ...

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When charitable organisations don’t believe in only giving anymore and barter sex for food

This year is definitely a year for women. At the start of 2018, the careers of Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes (now deceased), Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey (although the allegations were from men) decimated due to sexual assault allegations. It seems the propensity for women to come forward and report indecent behaviour by powerful men is now on the rise.  Now it seems every faucet of life, from sporting events and Larry Nassar’s incarceration, to Hollywood and now the world of charities and NGOs, is slowly turning on. Recently, atrocious allegations were revealed by news outlets of the use of prostitutes by ...

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156 young, defenceless women versus ONE paedophile in a white coat

The past year has been a daunting one for men in positions of power. You had the ousting of Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, who had been accused of sexual harassment, then the ousting of Bill O’Reilly, an incendiary anchor on Fox News, known for his vitriolic hatred against anyone who basically wasn’t white. This was followed by the explosive revelations made against Harvey Weinstein, the CEO of the Weinstein Company, one of the most influential movie producers in Hollywood.  Add to this another name: Larry Nassar, a doctor by day and a paedophile by night. His ...

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Dear abuser, my truth matters, and your time is up!

Six days ago, Oprah Winfrey made history. I sat staring at my laptop screen, feeling her words personify themselves. I felt them dance around, vibrating to be heard and felt. Resonate ­­– yes, that’s what they did. That’s how real they felt to me in that moment. That is the power of the spoken word. I don’t usually watch the Golden Globes; sometimes I’ll watch a recap or two. But this time, I found myself going back to the moments both before and after Oprah’s speech. I looked into the onscreen eyes of all these actors and I saw that glimmer, ...

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Whether for smoking, wearing jeans or saying #MeToo, 2017 was a year of constant harassment for Pakistani women

It’s finally that time of the year, when you get to cuddle up in a blanket on the sofa while you sip on hot chai (tea), and reflect on the past year. In fact, I’m doing just that as I write this. As we get through the very last days of 2017, a year that went by rather swiftly, it’s time for an important recap.   For me, a great part of the year was spent writing about and highlighting human rights injustices, not just in Pakistan but globally. By far, what throws me off every time is the sheer ...

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No, my ripped jeans do not allow you to believe that it is your right to harass and rape me

They are just clothes, I tell my father, when he passes a comment about my ripped jeans. He doesn’t understand – perhaps he never will. I run my hands along the tiny rips, feeling bits of skin and wondering if the freedom I feel is the oppression they want me to see. I see my legs in a pair of jeans, they see skin that is fighting the patriarchy. I see my choice, they see my rebellion. On November 3, 2017, Egyptian lawyer, Nabih al-Wahsh, stated that any woman wearing ripped jeans deserves to be harassed and raped. He ...

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