Normalization of harassment doesn’t make it normal, it just makes it more indecent and disgusting. There should be no excuse for female suppression anywhere. In the workplace, it is especially challenging to combat such issues due to the low population of women, and the influential speech of men.
Women in Pakistan make up 48.76% of the population. Their importance in everyday lives emphasizes their capabilities and collective strength.
Women, throughout the world struggle, because of the color of their skin, the origin of their ethnicity, and even the power of their speech. But most of all, their biggest fault is their basic human existence; being a woman.
Read more: How to protect women from sexual harassment?
While you may hear people in the so-called, self-imposed western culture talk about female discrimination, it is nowhere near the amount of destruction it causes in Pakistan. A country that suffers a long history with hypocritical Islamic policies, now sees itself at crossroads, between a misogynistic future and a troubled present.
Are men robots?
In a recent and extremely un-prepared interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan, the Prime Minister suggested clothing was the primary reason for events of gender-based violence in Pakistan. Further going on to clarify and cleanse the correspondent of any such circumstances because he was from the “west”, where it was normal to dress as such.
That is either a very good explanation to recent events in the country or a completely outrageous insult to every male in the country.
Read more: ‘Media to blame for sexualization of women’: Senior journalist hits back at internet trolls
Activists in the country fear comments like the ones made by the leader of the country regarding women’s clothing and natural male harassment, which is prompting many to wonder, is this all inheritance of harassment for some? Are all men supposed to harass women if they dress freely? If not, are we all robots?
It is a well-known fact that women are going to be harassed whether they breathe, die, live, wear burqas, don’t wear burqas. There is no question about it, and suggesting otherwise basically signals over-policing, the perfect formula for the collapse of democracy, especially an Islamic democracy.
Read more: Op-ed: In Pakistani democracy, self-interests trump ideological motivations
Rampant violence against women
5 in 10 women in the workplace are harassed, and 3 of them may be women who wear complete Islamic clothing. According to a study by White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO striving for women’s rights, 4,734 women faced some sort of violence between the years 2004 and 2016. Now, with the pandemic raging across the country, women are locked up all alone in their worlds, with no one to share their stories with.
They go on to evaluate the 15000 lives lost in that time period due to honor killings, a huge “respect factor”, for many conservatives, on the frontlines of what they call “Islamic dissent”.
And while to some, 4000 may not be a “major number”, media reports estimate that cases of violence against women between that time and six years on, were north of 51000, with 120% going unreported because of these very honor issues.
Read more: Honor killings: Pakistan’s continuing shame
But this is not an Islamic attitude. In no way is Islam to blame here. It’s all the inflammatory statements coming from all political parties, hoping to win over one vote or the other. We need structural women’s rights reforms in this country, not from politicians, but from workers, families, and even welfare groups.
And another thing. Labeling welfare organizations as foreign-funded takes out no essence of their important work, and ground-breaking discoveries. Whether it is listening to the unheard or lifting the poor, they are the spine of our cultural well-being, or whatever is left of it, and they should be applauded.
Read more: This is how women should ask for rights
No more violence against women
How come nations well equipped with anti-women laws, and the so-called “western”, societies don’t get some of these major issues. It’s because proper reforms are in place and punishments for frankly, creepy people, are there, and no excuse is put forward for their actions. That is the state of success, not clothing.
Recommending policy-making is no longer a question, it’s reality. Concrete steps to help address these issues are key. Not only does there need to be a check and balance on the lives and livelihoods of women in rural areas, but education for younger generations as well.
Read more: Barriers to women education, health and gender equity in Pakistan
It is not patriotic to be mean to women. And no, it’s not the military responsible for this, it’s average people hoping to get their misogynistic message across, in the name of every responsible excuse there is.
Juan Abbas is a freelance writer for the Daily Times. He tweets at @JuanAbbas. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.