The words harassment, sexual harassment, and rape are thrown around in casual conversations with no idea of the significance that goes along with each of these words. These words are like a stabbing knife in the hearts of individuals that have fallen victim to these crimes or have experienced these crimes secondhand through family, friends, colleagues or strangers. The sad part is, our society still fails to recognize and seek justice for these crimes that are committed every day.
From years 2012-2015, 90-99% of women in Pakistan, above the age of 18, were victims of sexual harassment in one form or another.
90-99% seems like a huge percentage, but this percentage is based on the number of women that came forward with the attacks. Imagine the women that didn’t?
Let me break it down for you, if you know 10 females, chances are at least 9 of them have faced rape, unwanted sexual advancements, sexual abuse, physical exploitation, suggestive comments, and the list goes on. Does this help to put into perspective what the female race experiences in Pakistan on a daily basis, let alone the horrible kidnapping and murder cases we hear about on the news?
Let’s take a look at some other alarming statistics.
If we focus on just the amount of women that did come forward about the violence and harassment cases that they faced, it would represent more than half of the female population in Pakistan.
These statistics are a little on the older side, but they are still relevant because they represent the society we live in. We live in a country that tells us to stay quiet about the neighbor that touched us inappropriately because izzat nahi rahay gi. We are asked to keep quiet about our male colleagues that hit on us after we repeatedly have told them it makes uncomfortable because log kaheinge aurat ka job karna zaruri nahi hai. Moreover, we are taught from a young age that the mard in our moashara are hot-tempered so if they lift a hand at us we should accept it.
When does the injustice and the victim-blaming end?
Will there ever come a time when a female isn’t held responsible for what she went through because of the way she was dressed or the way she spoke to a male? Will there ever come a time she will be equally treated and educated about the respect she deserves?
And no, women are not the only ones facing these situations and going through injustices.
Men are amongst the victims as well. The Express Tribune published an article in 2016 highlighting the number of females victims that came forward versus male victims. The numbers are evidently lower than those of female victims because a man who went through sexual harassment in any form is apparently not man-enough for our society if he comes forward with it.
I am horrified and importantly terrified for the men and women in our country. These types of actions are normalized because as a society we refuse to talk about them and treat them like an illness that should not be spoken of.
In light of the #MeToo movement and opening up, Nighat Dad and her colleagues have recently introduced an amazing initiative to help the victims of sexual harassment – Ab Aur Nahin.
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In response to women stepping forward with their stories around the Me Too movement in Pakistan, Nighat Dad- lawyer, activist and all-round badass- is soon to be launching a platform. Nighat asked if I could contribute and here's a torch bearing sisterhood leading the way. Details to be shared soon!
In the artwork above, it can be seen that women are the focus of this campaign, but men are not discouraged from reaching out and asking for help. All victims, whether male or female, are encouraged to reach out.
This initiative was introduced by Digital Rights Foundation, where Nighat Dad is the Executive Director.
DRF is a not-for-profit agency that focuses on supporting human rights, democratic processes, and digital governance. It aims to provide education and resources on issues that are not readily available to Pakistani society. They want to spread awareness and protect citizens of Pakistan, along with the rest of the world.
Ab Aur Nahin provides resources like lawyers, counselors, and knowledge on rights and laws regarding sexual harassment. All of this is provided pro bono – at no cost to the victim.
This means people that do not have the resources or money to step up and get justice will now be able to, all thanks to the 42 lawyers, of which 26 are women, spread all over Pakistan. On the website, it allows you to choose the region you are located in and then you have the ability to pick from the lawyers that come up in your area.
Some of the lawyers involved in this initiative are:
A LUMS and Shaikh Ahmad Hassan Law of School faculty member, an advocate of the High Court, interested in gender and law. She was also involved with drafting the Anti-Rape Bill in 2016.
Noor Ijaz Chaudhry
A University of London graduate, she currently is an advocate for the High Court. Previously, she was a Legal Associate as well as a Lecturer for International Protection of Human Rights.
Commonly known as the Karachi Feminist Lawyer who now teaches and educates people about human rights.
These three women, Zeenat, Kainat, and Mehwish are all advocates with Kakakhel Law Associates.
She is the Asia Foundation Development Fellow as well as Human Rights attorney in Balochistan.
She is a Law Expert at Mehergarh, A Center for Learning.
These are just a few of the lawyers that have stepped up and agreed to provide their services to the victims of sexual harassment in their respective areas.
The other brave lawyers include: Mirza Moiz Baig, Shadab Sikandar, Ramsha, Haider Salman, Maham Nawaz, Omer Imran Malik, Qamar-un-Nisa, Aimal Khan, Zara Ishtiaq, Fakhruddin Valika, Barrister Asad Anwer Alavi, Zahrah Sehr Vayani, Rabia Saeed, Abdullah Nizamani, Ahsen Hyder Khan Lodhi, Saif Ali Akbar, Immad Qamar, Maheen Shaikh, and Sarah Farid.
Aside from the lawyer’s section, there is a counselor section.
This tab provides links to three different contacts. The first one is the Cyber Harassment Hotline. The second one is Rozan, which is an Islamabad-based NGO that caters to working on different issues like mental and physical health. The third is Talk2Me, which is a 24-hour mental health helpline.
If you are a victim or know someone that is a victim to these heinous crimes, use this legal portal.
This is a safe place to share your story and get the justice you deserve. Take a step today.
Cover Image via @shehzilm/Instagram