Here's How Pakistani Women Are Finally Standing Up To Their Harassers

By Momina Mindeel | 7 Jul, 2017

In Pakistan, a society where it’s a challenge for women to exist in public spaces with safety, social media has shown similar traits. It is all to common for women to get harassed online by people unknown to them. Women are sent unsolicited private messages, comments and even their photographs are taken and used without consent, for questionable purposes, sometimes.

 

Thanks to the democratic nature of social media, and safety of distance behind a keyboard, women are starting to find their voice against online harassment

online-harassment-women
Source: thewire.in

We’ve all observed an increase in public posts and tweets about the injustices inflicted on women and in the recent months, a colossal number of of them have come out with their stories. A few days ago, a woman’s Facebook post about her experience with harassment while she was on a trip in the Northern region of Hunza went viral. She put up the image of her harassers with an account of why she did that and it became a large part of conversation on social media, for a good two days.

Unexpectedly, the response her post received was overwhelmingly positive. Everybody seemed to be in agreement that naming and shaming harassers (or putting up their images, as in this case) is one of the few solutions left to women, given the increasing lack of safety for them in public spaces.

 

There are several women who refuse to stay silent, at least on the social media 

“Girls were hesitant to speak up on harassment, before the social media. But seeing each other take this step gave us all confidence to share. Social media won’t finish the problem but it definitely spreads awareness and that does make a difference. You see that good people do exist. Many men replied to my tweet, saying “they felt ashamed of their kind.”Also, using this platform will help bring attention to the things that actually matter,” told Maryam Usman while talking to MangoBaaz.

Such posts are not just restricted to women’s experiences in the outdoor public spaces

Lately, cyber harassers have finally started getting their fair share of discredit as well.

(So proud of all my girls, tbh)

 

It has gotten to the point where organizations like Digital Rights Foundation have had to step in to help the victims 

 

Digital Rights Foundation, an advocacy NGO, led by Nighat Dad works specifically in order to help people, and women in specific, with being able to freely engage in online activity.

The Foundation has recently launched a ‘Cyber Harassment Helpline’ where anyone facing online harassment or cyber bullying can call in for help. Here’s how you can contact them too.

Source: Digital Rights Foundation

While talking to MangoBaaz, Shmyla Khan, the Project Manager of the Cyber Harassment Helpline said:

“Online spaces in some ways have leveled the playing field, where the power dynamics that harassers have over women in physical spaces (like the workplace for instance) are somewhat democratized and both parties have a relatively equal say.

This has emboldened a lot of women to come forward using social media and share their experiences. However it needs to be kept in mind that these spaces themselves are not perfect, and speaking up about abuse can also open these women up to a lot of slut-shaming and online harassment. That is why it is important for us to support those who speak out and to validate their experiences in order to create safe spaces.”

 

Women have found like minded communities, on Twitter and Facebook, to voice their opinions on, without fear of judgement or persecution

Minus the cyber harassers of course (but now you know how to tackle them, right?)

While talking to Mangobaaz, Minahil Mehdi said, “It’s where women have been harassed and objectified to the point that they simply can’t take it anymore. I don’t think we’re talking when we’re putting such things up on Facebook – we’re screaming. We’re screaming for the years of perversion and ridicule that we’ve had to go through by men who felt it was their right to lay their eyes, hands, tongues, filth on us.

Social media is a remote engagement. I don’t have to be present physically, don’t have to risk my body being surrounded by unknown people. It’s about saying things and the most one can do is abuse you. Imagine if I were to say these things in a public park to all those who harass, what all can happen to me.”

However, for Minahil and some others who have come out with their stories, social media is just an outlet. They believe in practicing the same in real life too. But let’s be honest, given the years of patriarchy and misogyny, doing the latter is not an option for everyone. For all such women, fortunately, social media has proved to be an outlet and a safe haven.

 

“If I say something on social media, I make it a point to practice it as well. If this had happened to me in a park, I would make it a point to walk up to the boys and tell them on their face that they have to look away or face the consequences.”

Women-Harassment-1
Source: ifex.org

Minahil continues her lamentation, “I think as we use social media and assume it is a safe space, we need to start making our physical spaces safe as well otherwise social media will just become a forum that is convenient and has no impact. this media engagement NEEDS to enable us to truly create safe spaces that allow women to feel free, and act freely as well.”

 


Cover image via: guardian.ng

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