Stories about harassment

No, I am not beckoning you… I am just a woman trying to get to work

To you, The driver who sees my loosely wrapped headscarf, jeans and long shirt, and wonders what’s going on; the passer-by who watches me adjust the messenger bag on my sagging shoulder with one hand and cover my eyes from the sun with the other, squinting at something in the distance; the curious men and women on motorcycles, in vans, riding bicycles and on foot, wondering what I’m doing on a street corner, so early in the day. And especially to those who might wonder if maybe, just maybe… Let me stop you right there and say what doesn’t need to be said ...

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Caught between conspiracies

Members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have decided to show solidarity with their leader, Altaf Hussain, by demonstrating their street power on May 25, 2014 in Karachi. The MQM chief has been under investigation, for money laundering charges, in London for nearly a year now. Though the UK authorities have been unable to prove the charges with substantial evidence, for the time being, Altaf’s accounts have been frozen. Like any other political party, MQM’s major source of income is through donations, which it collects from its supporters locally and around the globe. Altaf  Hussain, the party chief who moved to ...

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Is it a crime in Pakistan for a boy to drop a girl home?

A few days ago, as a friend was dropping me back home after dinner; we were pulled aside by the cops on main Khayaban-e-Shahbaz road in Defence, Karachi. No dark corner or shady alley but while driving smack in the middle of a bustling road. While we pulled over the car, the men in uniform, (who in all likelihood belonged to the Darakshan police station since the area falls under that jurisdiction) asked my friend to get out of the car. As expected, he was asked to produce the required ‘kaaghzaat’ and give details of our whereabouts. Upon inspection and failing ...

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I am a Pakistani woman and there is nothing wrong in letting men help me carry my luggage

Recently, I came across a blog titled I am a woman and I can carry my own luggage. By the looks of it, the writer clearly seemed frustrated by how porters at the airport behaved with her and it is obvious that her opinion hailed from her experience. However, she also accused Pakistani men of treating women badly and felt harassed by the porters. This, I think, was a tad exaggerated. I, personally, do not see what the issue was all about. On the one hand, women talk about having equality and stand in line with men but then, they also wish to be respected ...

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Three transgender people employed, well done Sindh government!

As I scanned through the multitude of headlines splashed across some of Pakistan’s e-papers on January 30, 2014 one headline caught my eye. The Sindh government has employed three transgender persons as full-time employees. The only thing that disappointed me was the fact that this issue was not carried across every e-paper and it was limited to only a handful of news reporting websites in Pakistan. The term ‘transgender’ encompasses a wide array of definitions. To put it in the simplest of terms, it is when the state of one’s gender identity does not match one’s assigned gender. This includes a person whose ...

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“Badshaho, we saw you kissing the girl”: To make a quick buck, the police will accuse you of anything

Going out with friends was a simple routine for me. It never bothered me whether I was going out with guys or girls since I never thought it to be much of an issue. However, in just one encounter, the Pakistani police taught me all the things that can go terribly wrong while going out with male friends. It was just another day when I went out with two of my friends from university. One of them was driving while the other sat in the front passenger seat and I took the backseat. We drove to a café located on ...

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Danish rape in India and advice to women visiting

A Danish tourist was abducted and gang raped at knife point in New Delhi last week. This is yet another one of a series of rapes that has shocked India and has shamed us once again. I have compiled a list of pointers that I think would make travelling safer for women tourists in India. Having travelled extensively throughout the length and breadth of the country, I have a fair bit of experience on dealing with problems that women could face while travelling alone or with fellow women. I’ve even made my share of mistakes that could have landed me in ...

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Education will not end wife beating, Pakistan needs a cultural shift

Domestic violence – a truly horrific term, to which only its victims can truly relate, is another one of the many plagues Pakistan suffers from. Honestly, I had never thought much about it. I knew what it meant and I knew it existed but that was the extent of my thoughts on the matter, probably because I have never experienced or witnessed it and so I could not relate to it. Or probably because, like so many of us, the bubble of my privileged social setup never gave me a window into this terrifying reality that engulfs many women. But the biggest ...

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Karachi Sea View: The sun, the sea and … harassment by the police?

A friend of mine was visiting from Lahore and asked me to show him the beach in Karachi. So, on a nice Sunday afternoon, December 1, 2013, I took him to the Clifton beach. He had never seen the beach before and was quite excited. Two of our other friends also accompanied us. I parked my car in the service lane by the beach and we started walking along the promenade. My friend purchased some souvenirs made from seashells for his family and as we were walking back towards our car, we were greeted by three men wearing white shalwar kameezs’. One of the ...

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Tehelka controversy: Can powerful editors get away with sexual harassment?

For more than a decade now, Tehelka magazine has been respected by the media fraternity for its fearless coverage of illegal defence deals, land rights issues, gender equality and communalism. Then, what happened two weeks ago in an elevator of the Grand Hyatt, Goa that not only shattered the reputation of the magazine, but blacklisted it for a long time to come? Tarun Tejpal, the patron of Tehelka, is said to have sexually assaulted a female colleague during the annual THiNK fest that Tehelka organises every November. He sent an email yesterday afternoon to the Managing Editor of the magazine, Shoma Chaudhury saying that he has ‘recused’ ...

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