Of Misogynistic Mice And Saviour Sisterhood
Disgusted. Numb. Enraged. Nauseous. Speechless. Angry. Sad. Shocked. Exhausted. And some more adjectives to the effect, is all one gets to read and receive in reaction to the recent tsunami of violent crimes against women in Pakistan magnified by Noor Muqaddam’s brutal murder.
I am none of those things. I am just scared. Make it very scared. I am not only scared for nieces, sisters, friends, even my Octogenarian mother (as old, frail women are also not safe in addition to the 52 per cent female population of Pakistan). I am more scared for myself that this skyrocketing rate of crimes might awaken the male beast in me that has been anaesthetized by civilization, strict parental vigilance and education received at home, through female mentors and friends.
I also don’t feel any of the above because we don’t have the luxury to self-flagellate, mourn, self-indulge as we are in a state of war. It’s a war against cruel, toxic, misogynistic men, which an overwhelming majority of Pakistani men is. Now, please spare me from ‘not all men’ stinking, rotten cliché. It’s a dire emergency.
I have enough reason to be scared that this rising trend of brutal violence against women – which has almost become a norm of the day – will not decrease, let alone stopping in foreseeable future. If we were to draw a loose comparison with yesteryears, say since 1970s, there would be a shift, not just an increase on the graph.
I am not saying that there were no violent crimes committed against women in that era; they did occur but it was almost sporadic. Now, every day there’s at least one case of a heinous crime against women, and that, too, the reported one. No one knows how many go unreported, suppressed for the sake of family/female honour or to protect the male culprit.
After the infamous and controversial alleged use of rape as a weapon by Pakistan Army in the former East Pakistan in 1971, Shabnam dacoity case was the first high profile violent crime case that came to light in 1979. The legendary actress of Pakistan film industry was raped in front of her husband and son by four boys during a dacoity at her house. The culprits were hanged till death.
The next case that jolted the society was Tarranum Aziz’s brutal murder in early 1980s. Then came Nawabpur case where a group of women was tortured and paraded about naked in the village as per local jirga’s verdict. Meanwhile, cases of karokari, vani, jirga sentences of killing women in long-drawn tribal and clans quarrel settlements continued unabated.
Since the advent of the new millennium, Pakistan witnessed a sharp rise in crimes against women. Dr. Shazia’s case (who was raped by an army officer) and Mukhtaran Mai’s gang-rape case bear proof of this ugly phenomenon. In the second decade of the millennium, violence against women took a nuclear form.
Admittedly, post-24-hour-electronic media boom and arrival of social media led to increase in citizen journalism and reporting of the cases. However, there is definitely more that fueled violent crimes against women. Because in 1970s and 1980s Pakistan had a very responsible, ethical and efficient press that sufficiently covered the genre.
But now men are committing horrible, most violent crimes against women absolute with shamelessness and stunning impunity and frequency. As if these are medals of manliness, not heinous crimes. It seems we are watching a live male version of Rekha’s Zakhmi Aurat. The only difference is men have not been wronged in this live show as opposed to the reel version. So, what could be the reason? I have been wracking my brains for some time, especially during the pandemic, when everything slowed down but these crimes against women and children.
To my pea-sized brain the reason for this nuclear explosion of violent crimes against women and children is that MEN ARE THREATENED. They are scared. They are asserting their power to show that they are still in charge of the world. They still own women and children who are their ‘property’. This sound simplistic and lazy, however, the more you study men’s behaviours in almost all aspects of life, the more it will become clear as a shining, sunny day.
Women are on the rise. They are excelling men in education, at work places, sports, almost in all fields. Women’s movements for freedom, equality and justice are gaining momentum with each passing year. WOMEN HAVE A VOICE NOW. And that voice is getting stronger and stronger with each crime committed against them.
Aurat March is the best example of this phenomenon. Men’s reaction to pre and post Aurat March and on every International Women’s Day is a testimony to their increasing fear. Fearless, independent, and strong women are their favourite targets. Asma Jehangir, Sharmeen Obaid, Malala Yousufzai, and Meesha Shafi are the poster girls of their vitriolic maligning campaign, along with vocal media personalities like Mahira Khan. However, their bile is just not limited towards prominent figures, each and every woman who dares raising her voice, differs with male opinion and long-held oppressive traditions is a prime target.
Men are reacting to this fabulous development. Their inner beast feels wounded, powerless, hence, being far less evolved and weaker than women, they choose violence to re-establish their fast-dwindling grip on women. They are marking their territory. They are acting like wounded, cornered animals. In fact, they are just that. Definitely, not all, at least more than 90 percent, the rest of 10 per cent don’t count as they are way too minuscule minority to make a dent in mindset. They fearlessly express it in passive/aggressive, aggressive in conversations at dinner parties, offices, social media platforms, educational institutions etc. Many express it through rage and physical violence. Social media responses reflect the mindset very well. Thanks to cheap smart phones, now almost all of Pakistan’s adult urban male population has access to social media.
This is just the tip of the towering inferno as this gives an idea about the mindset of urban male population. However, the much larger of chunk of male population, rural and semi urban, remains out of the radar. This huge chunk is still in the shackles of traditionally regressive, misogynistic, oppressive, claustrophobic tribal, feudal mindsets towards women.
To make women’s living conditions worse, the sensationalist, jingoistic electronic media for totally fraudulent and bogus ratings, of ten invite vile, venomous commentators to speak on social issues concerning and connected to women, and does so for totally fraudulent and bogus ratings. Men like Ansar Abbasi, Orya Maqbool Jan, Khalil ur Rehman Qamar are overtly misogynistic; threatened by women, they spew venom against them. They hide behind faux, imagined family values and absolutely wrong, rotten interpretation of religious references and texts to further their hatred for women. These commentators get more air time than any feminist or man with liberal views, who are already between far and few.
The second line of attack comes from the religious segment. This includes mullahs and women like Farhat Hashmi and Raheela Qazi who belong to shady religious groups or religious parties. They are the most dangerous as they don’t take much time in hurling the fatal accusation of Blasphemy. Once you are stigmatized with blasphemy– always false– your life is over. Either murder or an eternity behind the bars becomes your fate.
This lethal concoction of toxic views by misogynist social commentators and pseudo religious leaders serve as a highly inflammable fuel for male population. They use them as gospel truths to validate, strengthen and further propagate their ugly mindset against women and their right to abuse, torture women to keep them in line, in control and obedient and pious.
So, who will stand up and correct them? Who will support and protect women? State? Really? A state that a while ago didn’t know the difference between rape and adultery? A state that is against women just can’t protect them well. Perhaps not overtly, but silently Pakistani State is patriarchal and misogynistic in nature as shown by the constitution that has controversial law of evidence (another fine example of twisting religion to serve patriarchy), and denial of mother’s guardianship, among other discriminatory laws.
Government machinery is already biased against women. Refusal to register FIR about cries against women, rapes in police station, biased and sluggish justice procedure plague the system. Also, remember Lahore CCPO’s statement about the victim of Motorway case? “What was she doing on out on Motorway alone that late in night?” Whenever history of governance in Pakistan will be written, these words will be the opening of the document. Victim blaming is favourite argument of many Pakistani men and some women. From women’s clothes to body language to their conduct to timings, everything becomes a proof of her character, which is often ‘loose’ and ‘inviting’.
This brings us to politicians. Can we trust our Prime Minister with the job to protect women who not believes but publicly states (and repeats) that ‘vulgarity’, ‘obscenity’ (his version) and ‘women’s clothes are the reasons for sexual crimes against women; ‘because men are not robots?’ Oh, don’t forget the same man did not vote for Women’s Protection Bill as a member of assembly when he was not in power. And recently to appease dear friends i.e. Mullas, as the Prime Minister, he sent it to the Islamic Ideology Council third time. Slow clap!
And women in his party defend him, let alone men who are expected to do so. As do his voters and supporters regardless of gender and class. Given the changing political landscape in Afghanistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s regressive, misogynistic mindset, soft corner for Taliban, the day is not far that he will welcome Taliban in Pakistan, including them in his cabinet as some minister or Special Assistant. Most probably Special Assistant to Women’s or Religious Affairs. Then there’s no chance of returning to even semblance of civilization, women’s rights and democracy, as we know them.
Other political parties care more about their vote bank which largely comprises of male population. Even women members of the parliament tow their respective party lines. They never rise above party and power politics as women and force the parliament to take women’s issue seriously and act against crimes against women. The maximum we get in this regard is lip service. Activists to this day are trying to get a ban on acid sale. The cheapest weapon in the war against women, acid is openly sold in all over the country. For a few rupees, dozens of women’s lives are destroyed either by killing or permanently disfiguring them every year.
So, who can protect women? Only women.
Just like they have caused a huge dent in the collective male not-so-shining armour; it’s time they smashed it with their perseverance and strength. We know men are scared. They realise women’s strength is far greater than their power. All women need is to increase their attacks on patriarchy. It is already crumbling.
But for that they will have to rise above their political, class, age differences and unite. All 52 per cent of female population have to become one – one voice, one action, one force. Because men can behead one Noor; stab one Khadija; gang rape one Mukhataran; troll one Sharmeen; abuse one Asma; shoot one Malala; harass one Meesha; rape one woman on motorway; thrash one wife; karo kari one sister/daughter; and they may burn one woman or bury few alive – they can’t commit violent crimes against “one million women”. Forget one million, even 10,000 can keep men in line if they are united in protecting their kind. In fact, these united women can save men like me from turning into a beast. They can save our children who are also a victim of men’s show-power. These united women can save generations…only if they are united.
And if women need a lesson in unity, they must watch Nishtha Jain’s fabulous, inspirational documentary Gulabi Gang. This a film that must be shown and taught in all schools, colleges, universities. It must be shown repeatedly on tv channels. Gulabi Gang also serves as a reminder to men to mend their ways because hell hath no fury like an abused woman. And imagine the fury if these abused, tortured women are in millions!