Deconstructing The Slogan 'Mera Jism Meri Marzi'

Deconstructing The Slogan 'Mera Jism Meri Marzi'
When a woman talks of “Jism” (body), the first thing that comes to mind of many people is sex and I am sure this reaction would not be any different among most male and female segments of our society. Now such reaction is bound to break all boundaries if ‘jism’ becomes a subject of signboards hanging on street and other public places. It was the case when the organisers of Aurat March placed their posters at different public places carrying their slogan “Mera jism, meri merzi”.

A feeling of annoyance and outrage gripped the conservative section of the society who considered it a kind of shame and disgrace for a country that claims to be the adherent of a religious ideology.
Aurat March, which is set to take place on 8th March to raise voices against the atrocities committed against women became controversial as it faced different challenges from court proceedings to disrespectful behaviours exhibited by the participants of TV talk shows discussing this march.

Playwright Khalilur Rehman Qamar, who claimed to be a staunch supporter of women rights turned out to be one of the worst opponents of the Aurat March who didn’t feel any shame in behaving very disrespectfully with a woman, Marvi Sirmid, and resorting to abusive outburst during a talk show on Samaa TV.

To second him was the voice of a notoriously popular TV actress, Veena Malik, who considered a woman’s body worthy of disrespect if she doesn’t have all those sexy features that she had once exposed in India and invited a similar kind of wrath that she hurled at Marvi Sirmed. Before I could have lost my faith on the sanity of the showbiz community, a good number of them came out with strong condemnation of Khalilur Rehman Qamar’s ugly behaviour without mincing words.

Although the immediate reaction from social media and the celebrities was a positive sign of our social behavior, the subject of Aurat March and its purpose still remained open for further discussion and deliberation to have an understanding of how we look at this initiative that calls for a walk demanding respect for Mera Jism, Meri Merzi (My body, my right).

First of all, what we have to accept is that human body and particularly a woman’s body is not for sexual pleasure only and she too have every right to voice her concerns on crimes that, in most of the cases, are committed against her for two basic reasons - her sexual attraction and vulnerability. Last year, Khalil attained unprecedented popularity for his screen play “Tum Mery Pass Ho” and his most controversial comment on sexual violence against women. What he said is quoted verbatim here:

“A few weeks ago, a feminist group had a conversation with me regarding equality. I asked them if they’ve ever heard about a gang of men kidnapping a woman? They assured me they have. I asked them then why don’t women do the same?” the host giggled, “If you wish to strive for equality then kidnap men as well. Rob a bus, gang rape a man, so that I can understand what you [women] mean by equality.”

He is not alone in showing such unawareness about social crimes against women that occur on daily basis in the country. Mufti Naeem-ur-Rehman, a religious scholar, in a talk show on Duniya TV called Uzma Bukhari a liar when she talked about molestation of children by Madressah Teachers and by some fathers as well.

Leaving aside the apathy exhibited by persons holding respectable position in the society, I would like to share factual data on the number of women fatalities that were recorded during last three years (2017-19) on the basis of newspaper reports. The actual number of these crimes are too high than what I recorded.

During last three years, nearly 3794 persons became victims of social crimes in the country that included violence like enmity (572 killed, 214 injured), honor killing (512 & 28), domestic violence (320 and 91), sexual violence (90 and 282), petty dispute (220 and 71), property dispute (181 and 83), child abuse (101 and 75), matrimonial dispute (100 and 32), and many other crimes left 188 dead and 155 injured. If we look at the gender of the perpetrators who committed these crimes, we find only 122 females out of 3794 perpetrators – nearly 3% of these crimes were committed by females against 97% male perpetrators.

Table 1: Gender-wise distribution of perpetrators of social crime during 2017-19

We can distribute these social crimes into two categories – one that are emanated from male and female (family) relationship (like ‘honor’ killings, domestic violence, sexual violence, and matrimonial disputes) and the other are those that get triggered by enmities, property disputes, tribal feuds and other petty issues. The first category can be defined as crimes against women including children (male and female both) and transgenders while the second category falls out of the domain of family relationship and are mostly resulted from disputes with males.

To keep this column short and mainly focused on issues that hurt women the most, I will share my findings on social crimes committed because of male and female relationship. As many as 1375 persons were killed and 575 injured in crimes in this category and 46% of the total victims were females, 33% children (male and female), 19% males, 2% transgenders. The interesting or shameful part of these crimes is the identity of the perpetrators of these crimes. Only 6% of the victims had suffered from crimes that were committed by females while the remaining 96% were the victims of male perpetrators.

Husbands were on top among all other perpetrators with the exception of unknown persons who killed 259 persons and injured 50, followed by brothers (101 and 20), father (93 and 33), and religious people (like Pesh Imam, Maulvi, Qari, and Madressah Teachers) also committed these crimes that left 8 persons dead and 23 injured. What crimes they committed are briefly covered below:

A few incidents of sexual violence in the country
Date Incident Perpetrator
7-May-19 A 12-year-old girl, who was married off despite her young age, was raped at least four times before being recovered in Shikarpur. Husband
8-Jan-19 A woman was abducted, beaten and raped by four men, including her husband in Rawalpindi. Husband
22-Jul-19 Tahir (a Pesh Imam by profession) brutally tortured to death his wife Parveen Bibi (a Hafiz-e-Quran teaching 100 girls) with the help of his other family members. The victim’s brother said that Parveen had caught her accused husband red handed while raping women at different times at her home. Husband
20-Jan-18 A 15-year-old girl in Rawalpindi accused her father of repeated rape. The man's wife told the police that her husband used to rape their daughter but the young girl kept quiet out of fear. Husband
28-Jun-18 A girl has allegedly been repeatedly raped by her father for the last seven months in Faisalabad’s Chak Jhumra area. Father
6-Oct-18 6 October 2018: A man allegedly raped his 16-year-old daughter for three months in the Pano Dheri Village of Mansehra City. Reports claim that the girl’s mother knew the incident but chose to remain silent. Father
24-Jan-19 A man was arrested for sexually assaulting and impregnating his teenage daughter.The 16-year-old victim told the police in her statement that her father, Daulat Khan, works as a day labourer at a local brick kiln and he was involved in this crime. Father
17-Feb-19 A girl has allegedly been repeatedly raped by her father for the last one-and-a-half years in Okara’s Depalpur area. Father
7-Jul-19 ISLAMABAD-Aabpara police have booked a man for allegedly raping his real daughter who is just 5 years of age. Father
23-Nov-19 A girl, aged 13, had alleged in the petition that her father and four of his friends raped her in Shujabad. Father
30-Jan-18 A brother of a teenage girl in Quetta has confessed to her rape and murder in Killi Ismail. Brother
5-Oct-18 A teenager girl became pregnant after being allegedly raped by her brother, uncle and others with the support of her mother. Brother
1-Jul-19 A teacher has been arrested on Sunday for allegedly molesting and physical abusing minors at a seminary in Rawalpindi. Madrasa teacher
28-Oct-19 LAHORE: Sanda police arrested a cleric for sexually abusing minor children on Sunday. The suspect was identified as Mukhtar Ahmad. Quran teacher
6-Dec-19  A 10-year-old seminary student was allegedly sodomised by two men inside the seminary located on Chakri Road. Madrasa persons
27-Dec-19 A Madrasa teacher in Mansehra —identified as Shamsuddin—along with three accomplices raped a 10-year-old minor for over 100 times, GNN reported. As per details garnered, the victim was rushed to hospital as blood started to come out from his eyes as a result of repeated and brjutal sexual abuse. Madrasa teacher

The above table disproves the denials of crimes that are committed by husbands, fathers, and religious persons. Children of as tender age as 8 months and one and half year were victimized by males while females were often subjected to multiple crimes like killing them after kidnapping and gang raping.
In some cases, they were filmed during sexual assaults. As many as 372 persons (women, children - girls and boys) faced acts of sexual violence against them during last three years, 90 of them were killed after rape or gang rape.

It’s a long list of crimes committed by men that left 2614 persons dead and 1058 wounded in last three years; the victims of which were not females only, there are children (male and females both) and men as well. 40% victims of the honor killings, and 25% of domestic violence were males.

The fact that remains unrecognizable is that it is the man who is the most dangerous gender in the country from whose crime nobody is safe. Yet, the dominance of males in our society has very cleverly created an environment and an overwhelming mindset that instead of holding the perpetrator accountable, blames the victims.

Since it’s woman’s body (Jism) that becomes the highest victims of his crimes that are not only sex related. A father can kill his daughter for not making a roti round enough suitable for his taste. A former husband feels it his legitimate right go out and kill his former wife because she is having an affair. A father, a brother, or even uncle is ready to kill a legally married couple and a man kill a woman if she refuses her marriage proposal.

The ear-shattering silence of the society against these crimes leave women with no option other than to save their 'Jism' from a vulture called man.
It’s sad but very true and we have to prove that we concern for the victims and not the perpetrators if we believe in rule of justice. I leave to the readers as to who they want to march with – the victims or perpetrators.

The author is a freelance journalist and researcher. He is affiliated with the Center for Research and Security Studies as Senior Research Fellow. Earlier, he worked for a multi-national company GE Aviation, USA in Karachi for nearly three decades.