Stories about slavery

The broken and tormented Kinzas and Tayyabas of Pakistan, waiting for a train that never comes

If you live in Pakistan, you must have frequently come across a very young child accompanying an elite family, looking like they don’t belong. What differentiates the child from the ‘elite’ family is the fact that while they dress modestly enough to not look poor and become a source of embarrassment for the family, they are also not dressed extravagantly, so there remains a marked difference highlighting who is the master and who is the servant.  This has become a trend in Pakistan, where you see children accompanying adult individuals and carrying either their bags or their babies for them. Apparently, this shows their ...

Read Full Post

Are forced marriages a form of modern-day slavery?

In one of the old dictionaries I’ve been using since my school days, the definition for ‘forced marriage’ is: “A marriage in which one or both of the parties is married without his or her consent or against his or her will.” Growing up in Britain and in an Asian community, I’ve heard countless stories of young girls – at the young age of 16, even before they’ve received their exam results – being taken abroad for a ‘family holiday’, only to discover one evening that the very next day was their wedding. It even happened to one girl I ...

Read Full Post

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 ...

Read Full Post

Black Panther is hypnotic, imaginative and nothing like anything you would have ever seen

After spending thousands of hours watching films over the years, I rarely come across anything that I haven’t already watched before in a slightly different guise. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we have run out of good cinema. It is just that someone like me who is a prolific movie-watcher hardly gets to experience a work of cinematic art these days, which is truly novel. But to my utter surprise, I did manage to find such a gem and that too in the most unlikeliest of places. Imagine my astonishment when I went in to watch a Marvel movie ...

Read Full Post

A domestic helper is not a slave. A child is not a servant. #JusticeForTayyaba

Exactly one year ago, a man heard a little girl cry out from the cold floor of a washroom in Rawalpindi. She is a 12-year-old domestic worker in Rawalpindi Cantonment. As the man tries to contact the police, he realises there is no proper method to save a child like that from a family that refuses to understand that such treatment towards young children, or any person, is nothing but inhumane. The man who heard this little child’s cry wrote about the incident in a piece published on January 01, 2016, with the hope that by this year, she ...

Read Full Post

Does Britain still have a colonial mind-set?

Britain, at the peak of its global reach, ruled over 1/3rd of the world and so it comes as no surprise that an element of colonial nostalgia secretly exists amongst Brits today. Following a rapturous Olympics outcome, various British celebrities and sports personalities made subtle hints to the days of the Empire on Twitter. Now that's what I call winning!!! Well done Team GB & all our Commonwealth friends, now for the Trade Agreements…. pic.twitter.com/Qg9qkYxWHp — Heather Wheeler MP (@HeatherWheeler) August 22, 2016 It could also be said that one of the reasons behind Brexit was the desire to return Britain to its former legacy of being a ...

Read Full Post

Homegoing: An uncompromising and astonishing book

Every year, there comes a novel with the kind of pre-publication hype that puts all other contemporary writing in shade. There are endorsements by popular writers, generous blurbs printed on back covers by famous critics and talks of million-dollar book deals and film rights. This year, that book comes in the shape of Homegoing, the debut novel of Yaa Gyasi, a 26-year-old Ghanaian-American writer. One particular feature of such marketing campaigns and publicity tactics is that more than often, the novel shatters the hopes of the readers; it becomes an anti-climax to their fecund anticipations that are fermented by the abundance of praise and excitement ...

Read Full Post

Are Muslim refugees destined for a life of sex slavery?

“Listen lady, if you don’t want to be whisked away to a brothel in Brussels and your three girls trafficked into pedophile rings or have their organs removed, please go back to Pakistan. Stop trying to make your way into Europe.” These were the words of British aid worker Sajad Shah to a Pakistani mother with three very young daughters. The woman was seeking asylum in Germany, along with thousands of Syrians and Iraqi refugees, after claiming she was being persecuted as a Christian in her home country. The founder of the charity Love for Humanity, Sajad Shah has been helping in ...

Read Full Post

Does the death penalty target criminals or the poor?

A damning report places Pakistan as third in the list of countries where the most number of executions took place in 2015, after China and Iran and before Saudi Arabia and the United States. In other compelling statistics, in 2014, the Global Slavery Index, Pakistan ranked third in a list of 167 countries where the problem of human slavery is most severe. In 2012, we had the most number of people (28 million) affected by war and conflict. Along with other South Asian countries, Pakistan ranks high in hunger and malnutrition statistics, with about 41 million people undernourished in the period 2014-16, a whopping 22 per ...

Read Full Post

If you think the niqab is a choice, think again

In my recent article, ‘Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab’, while examining countries in and around the geographical vicinity of the Middle East, I lamented the loss of cultural riches such as art, music, various religious festivities, as well as heritage sites like ancient temples and monasteries to a single fast-spreading inflexible ideology. To drive the point home, between a dozen countries, I compared various cultural garments with the full single-colour veil called the niqab, also known as the abaya or the burqa. The contrast was startling. On one end were 12 aesthetically delightful national dresses varying ...

Read Full Post