Opinion

On Raising Our Voices Against Rapists And Supporting Victims

September 11, 2020

A woman was gang-raped in front of her children at a motorway in Lahore. She called the police for help when her car broke down and while waiting for them to arrive, this horrid incident happened.  The rapists forced her and her two children out of the car at gunpoint, and proceeded to rape her multiple times. Her relative, who she had contacted when the car started having issues, is the one who eventually found her – bloody and terrified.

The police’s management of the incident has caused outrage all over the country. A senior officer has been quoted saying that she should not have been travelling late at night and that should have checked she had enough fuel.

How dare they question anything about WHY this woman was where she was, instead of reflecting on HOW this could have been prevented? HOW they could have gotten help to her faster? And HOW we as a nation have failed this family and the countless others who have gone through similar tragedies.

It’s time to STOP THE VICTIM BLAMING.

I cannot help but think of the conversations happening within families right now. We can all imagine how it’s going… more women are being asked not to go outside, to stay within the homes, to not insist on travelling within the country or even beyond. Women being told about how dangerous the world out there is, citing this incident as yet another example on why we need to be caged and protected from the monsters outside.

I wonder how much easier and safer life would be, if men were the ones asked not to leave the house after midnight. If parents of boys instilled the fear in them of the punishment that lies ahead if they even think of doing anything close to abusing a woman. If we actually taught sex education in our schools.

This news has left the Pakistani women shook – with sadness, anxiety, fear and anger. It is a reminder that we are never safe. It is making women worry about the fact that they live alone while their husband works overseas, or how they have to take a Careem to go to work tomorrow. The situation is so terrifying that young mothers are actually claiming they wish they had sons, just so that they don’t have to worry about their daughters going through something similar in the future. 

Earlier this year, women took to the streets all over Pakistan during the Aurat March (Women’s March). Some of the banners and slogans used during that time caused a lot of controversy, such as the infamous ‘mera jism, meri marzi’ (my body, my choice). We had many men, calling out these words because they were indecent or Islamically unacceptable. Where are those men now? Are they just as enraged over what happened to that woman? And where are all those religious clerics who cause such uproar over blasphemy cases? Are they as equally upset by this horrendous act? Is the action of rape not just as un-Islamic?

Let’s be real, in most Pakistani families we don’t even say the word “rape”, we try to skirt around it, generalise it, try to minimize the impact of our language. But we need to call it what it is in order to condemn the actions of the rapists. We need to support victims and call out those who try to turn the attention away from the rapists themselves through victim blaming, and demand punishment so these monsters learn that there are consequences to their actions. We have to #makenoise.

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