Who let the dogs out? | Pakistan Today

Who let the dogs out?

Sexual harassment allegations must be taken seriously; they’re probably true

That must be the song ringing in the Pakistan People’s Party’s ears these days, a song that fits neatly with the rest of the story below.

What with Cynthia Ritchie’s allegations, the MQM leadership under a ruling of murder and some of its top brass under arrest, the PPP must be feeling the heat. The same heat that feels like welcoming breeze to some others. Be that as it may, Cynthia Ritchie’s allegations have another side.

Whatever and whoever Ms. Ritchie, who has lived here for ten years, is; whether or not anyone had the right to call her in to ‘investigate’ matters in Pakistan as she says is the case, however many ‘privileges’ she enjoys, is a separate matter. Without any reference to the individuals she has pointed fingers at, because there is no way of knowing if those accusations are genuine- her claims of the harassment suffered by women in general at the hands of men in general, are distressingly true, and when there is even a grain of truth in a matter, it warrants attention. And what Ms. Richie has said contains more than just a grain.

“I understand why some women choose to wear burqas as a protective cover to keep the men from staring,” said Ritchie, speaking of her experience of Pakistan. “It’s important to note that both women and men stare, but men are more obvious. In Islam, men are taught to lower their gaze in front of a woman, but that does not happen often.”

There are laws prohibiting child labour in Pakistan, but more than 11 million children are still working in this country, in homes, in factories, and elsewhere, many of them as indentured labour. Zahra was one of those unfortunates. She was killed by her employers, at their admission, when she let loose one of the birds they sold.

These lines are shamefully true. Female workers walking to and from work regularly experience harassment by men on the street, and unless their employers act on their behalf, the police is likely to be added to their list of harassers, with a few merciful exceptions.

Women drivers have similar experiences, and this is the reason why women cyclists are so rare in this country as to be almost non-existent. And yet, the religious right which never condemns and even propagates this attitude, seems to have the power to override the government, the courts and whoever else tries to disagree with them. This in itself is a situation as scary as any nuclear threat. Which way is our country headed? When will the government and the people realise the importance of everyone staying within their legal limits?

Jirgas, often responsible for terrifyingly cruel judgements against women, were given legal sanction in Pakistan by a bill passed in the National Assembly in 2017. The bill gives constitutional cover to Jirgas and Panchayats, the ‘kangaroo courts’ to be found all over this country. Their decisions include ‘honour’ killings, pedophilia, kidnapping, forced marriage and all sorts of other horrific rulings. A national daily reported the case of an eight-year-old girl who was accused of adultery. As a result she was stoned to death by the villagers on the jirga’s orders. An eight-year-old child. A child.

Women are sold or forced into marriage to pay for the crimes of men in their family. There was the case this year of a seven-year-old given in marriage for a crime committed by a family member. And of course there is always the well-known case of Mukhtaran Mai who was gangraped on the orders of a tribal council, as revenge for a crime committed by a kinsman. She spoke up against the matter. Normally women do not. They are expected to kill themselves in shame following the rape. Which occurred as a result of a crime committed by someone else. Where’s the logic or the  justice, much less the humanity here?

There is also the harassment suffered by women in the public light by their colleagues such as the scene created on public television by Talal Chaudhry, during which he addressed derogatory remarks against Kanwal Shozab, and called her names. Mr. Chaudhry is not new to such actions.

There have been many, many such cases, such as Amir Liaquat’s lecherous tweet featuring Sherry Rehman. This man Liaquat, the man whose academic degrees have been declared fake, has been a member of the National Assembly on a PTI ticket since 2018.

Cynthia Ritchie mentions other kinds of harassment as well.

“I’ve also seen both sexes mistreat their servants, servants’ children, and scream abuses at poor people in the markets. In Pakistan, abuse is not as openly discussed as it is in the West. Abuse seems to be more acceptable as long as one maintains a luxury lifestyle.”

This also is only too true. There was just this month the tragic case of eight-year-old Zahra who was hired by a couple to look after their one-year-old child.

There are laws prohibiting child labour in Pakistan, but more than 11 million children are still working in this country, in homes, in factories, and elsewhere, many of them as indentured labour. Zahra was one of those unfortunates. She was killed by her employers, at their admission, when she let loose one of the birds they sold.

Remember, eight years old and working. Eight years old and murdered. Why could no one save her? Is this the Land of the Pure? Don’t even think of Riasat-e-Madina, the biggest, saddest joke.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/



One Comment;

  1. JUNAID AHMAD KHAN WAZIR said:

    Your comment…realy I Am AgAInst the Child [email protected] Sexual harrasment,,,,proper System Should be Manage to tackle the Issue

Comments are closed.

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