Cynthia Ritchie Case: Are Pakistani Feminists Being Subjected To Unfair Scrutiny?
Islamabad-based American blogger Cynthia Dawn Ritchie recently accused former interior minister Rehman Malik of raping her, and ex-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin of physically manhandling her in 2011. Following the allegations, senior PPP leaders not only denied the serious charges but also sued the US blogger for ‘bogus’ accusations, seeking a public apology and withdrawal of charges within 15 days of the defamation notice.
Several prominent Pakistani feminists demanded an independent investigation into Cynthia’s allegations but still, as is often the case, right-wing groups online have been severely criticising women’s rights activists for not supporting the US blogger and not issuing an official press statement from their respective organisations.
Critics are saying that feminists opted for silence due to the personal affiliations and political motives of Cynthia and certainly her most recent tweets, wherein she accused the late former primer Benazir Bhutto of orchestrating the rape of a number of women who had alleged relations with her husband and former president Asif Ali Zardari. A court in Islamabad has directed the FIA to hold investigation into her slanderous tweets about the former PM and register a case if need be.
Activist Nayab Jan calls for an independent probe into Cynthia’s allegations against the PPP leaders and advises the US blogger to pursue this case legally. When asked as if Cynthia’s political associations should be taken into consideration in the investigations process, she says, “No, there should be two different investigations, one for Cynthia’s rape/sexual assault accusations, and another for her affiliations and what she has been doing in the country all this while.”
She further reiterates that Cynthia’s allegations should not be inter-mixed with her other political activities and her recent tweets.
While answering the right-wing social media trolls, Nayab Jan says that these people who never get tired of criticisng women’s rights organisations, especially Aurat March, are now demanding them to issue press statements. She questioned, “When did we become so important,” adding that the criticism and the aforesaid demands purely come from the negative intentions. “Even in the Uzma Khan case, they were continuously trying to push us to make hostile statements against the actor.”
This kind of inspection is “quite unfair”. She adds:“Expecting us to issue public statements on every event is prejudicial. We can’t do activism on every single issue. Several things are going on at one time.”
She further says that issuing press statements on a particular happening is “a very complicated process. It takes time to develop consensus in an organisation before doing so.”
Nayab Jan has been asked by many people on social media as to why other feminists are not saying something on the allegations. “I reply to these people that we [women’s rights activists] are not supposed to express an opinion on every single happening. I advise these people not to jump on this bandwagon.”