Pakistan is quietly struggling with its own watershed moment
By Bindu Rai, Deputy Editor tabloid!
Dubai: Even as Tanushree Dutta’s recent revelations jolts Bollywood out of its #MeToo slumber a decade after she first made the allegations against veteran actor Nana Patekar, Pakistan is quietly struggling with its own watershed moment.
In recent comments that have sent ripples of shockwaves across Pakistan, 25-year-old model and actress Sadaf Kanwal, along with popular lifestyle blogger Siddy Says, elicited the wrath of many as they questioned why women wait so long to report their ‘#MeToo incident?’
Kanwal appeared to ponder over this quandary while appearing last month on the talk show Tonite with HSY. When asked to share her thoughts on the movement sweeping across the world, the young model responded saying: “You know aap ke saath Me Too jab ho, tab boldo. Baad mein apko yaad aa raha hai Me Too? So, I think jab ho boldo [When you have a #MeToo incident, say it. Suddenly later, you cry #MeToo? So, when it happens, just say it].”
Kanwal’s comments were further backed by Pakistani blogger Siddy Says who waded into the debate with a blog post that defended the model’s statement.
“We rightfully agree with Sadaf [Kanwal] on this. If you find yourself amidst an [sexual harassment] incident report it immediately instead of making a hue and cry about it years later,” Siddy Says wrote.
The condemnation of Kanwal’s comments was fierce and quick, with several finding her viewpoint outrageous in a community that has been quietly fighting against the patriarchy to create a space for women to speak up.
Amongst the most notable to respond to Kanwal’s comments was singer Meesha Shafi, who has publicly accused Pakistani singer-actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment in April. While Shafi faces down the battle against Zafar in court, her reaction to Kanwal’s comments were swift and unforgiving.
Strong eyebrows.. do not a strong backbone make 🤷🏻♀️ Pfffft— MEESHA SHAFI (@itsmeeshashafi) September 19, 2018
“Strong eyebrows.. do not a strong backbone make. Pfffft,” wrote Shafi on Twitter, throwing shade at Kanwal who is known for her fierce brow game in the world of modelling.
Shafi later posted a little on Twitter in wake of the recent hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, posting:
“You should not have said. You should not say.. Why did you say… What reason for saying… How dare you say… Why did you say it like this/that. Why haven’t you said it to me? Why this forum?
But what about xyz issue? Also: But why didn’t you say anything sooner?”
While Shaafi has been subtle in her outrage, others have not been so forgiving. Twitter user Zaibi cut to the quick, posting: “Really? It’s so disappointing when women who are well aware of what really goes on around, women who have the power and influence on other people, say such things without context and without giving it a second thought. So pathetic!”
I’m disappointed how Sadaf Kanwal made light of #metoo movement, how I was her fan, how her privilege blinds her to ordeals of sexual abuse victims who find courage to fight the evil, how all this education and exposure doesn’t bring empathy, how this is how she uses her impact. pic.twitter.com/XqY4u4Fw55— Maryam (@maryamful) September 18, 2018
Twitter user Maryamful stated: “I’m disappointed how Sadaf Kanwal made light of #MeToo movement, how I was her fan, how her privilege blinds her to ordeals of sexual abuse victims who find courage to fight the evil, how all this education and exposure doesn’t bring empathy, how this is how she uses her impact.”
Social media user Ayesha Rafat kept her outrage brief by tweeting: “Sadaf Kanwal shouldn’t be allowed to speak on any sort of platform.”
However, this isn’t the first time that Kanwal has courted controversy with her viewpoint over the #MeToo movement.
Earlier, she posted a picture of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari being kissed on the cheek by a follower, captioning the Instagram image as ‘#MeToo’ with a laughing emoji. Few found it funny.
WomenFront, a community blog in Pakistan that aims to give voice to women looking to speak up about issues ailing them, called Kanwal’s actions “offensive.”
“Without wasting even a second on formalities, I’d like to get straight into the issue here. I see this even in daily life how men and women indulge in casual sexism and casual racism without taking into account of how wrong and offensive that is. It only shows lack of basic mannerism and education.
“For those of you who aren’t aware, #MeToo was the campaign that helped millions of people around the world, men and women alike to share their stories of physical abuse with the world,” the post read. “This hashtag is NOT something you use casually in a comedic conversation. This hashtag is not something you use as a joke. This hashtag needs the respect it deserves.
“You might think that i could be overreacting over an emoji and a word but it’s never about the word itself, it’s about what it represents. As long as you don’t learn to respect what people believe in or share their pain in their traumas, you aren’t human enough. Sadaf owes EVERYONE an apology but I doubt she even realizes the seriousness of her offensive actions.”
While some have argued that Kanwal’s comments have come from a place of privilege, Twitter user Javaria Waseem calls it as she sees it, tweeting: “After this whole Sadaf Kanwal incident, I realise how difficult it must have been for @itsmeeshashafi to take a stand for herself and point a harasser in the same media community which harvests people like Sadaf.”
#MeToo may just have to wait awhile.
'Woman, when attacked, could have multiple reactions'
By Rabab Khan, Community Interactivity Editor
Dubai: One in three women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence, states the United Nations (UN). World over, women are raising their voices using #MeToo on various social media channels. But, the question that many ask is why were they silent all this time?
Karen Anne Andrews, a clinical psychologist based in Dubai, explains that a woman, when attacked, could have multiple reactions, including shame, fear and anger.
She said: “Survivors of sexual assault routinely feel guilt and self-blame. Depending on the nature, severity and perpetrator of the attack, as well as her personal individual psychological makeup, she may feel a range of emotions. She could be traumatised and experience flashbacks, heightened levels of anxiety, hyper vigilance and mistrust of the entire masculine gender.”
So, a woman might be left to believe that even if she does speak up and report the crime, she will not be believed. In some extreme cases, she could even be blamed for it.
Andrews said: “She may fear that she might be subject to a criminal investigation herself. She may fear bringing shame onto her family. She may also fear the physical examination by medical professionals to collect physical evidence. She may be traumatised and scared and too afraid to face having to deal with male law enforcement and the official nature of the police, legal and judicial system.”
If the case goes to court, having to relive the incident could also be a traumatic experience. The situation is worse if the victim knows the perpetrator.
Dr Shankar Srinivas Kuchibatla, a consultant psychiatrist based in Dubai, said: “If the perpetrator is a close family member or a friend, the victim is ambivalent about disclosing the incident to her family or authorities for the fear of losing the support of the family and feared consequences of disrupted relationships. In some cases, victims are in fear of further attack to her or her closed ones, like siblings or family members.”
He goes on to explain that some women might convince themselves that it “wasn’t a big deal”.
For many women, seeking justice doesn’t seem like a priority at the time. In fact, their main focus is on seeking safety.
Dr Tara Wyne, a clinical psychologist based in Dubai, said: “The woman will enter survival mode after being assaulted. She is usually using every resource she has just to face the day and cope with normal functioning. In such circumstances few women feel strong enough or equipped enough to go through the ordeal of telling strangers in law enforcement what happened to them. Women may also have been threatened by their attacker.”
She refers to the case of Dr Christine Blasey Ford accusing Brett Kavanaugh, the US Supreme Court nominee, of sexual assault 35 years after the incident. She had reported this was because of how traumatised she was. But, when she finally came forward, she faced ridicule, attack, shaming and even death threats for speaking the truth. This, Dr Wayne explains, is representative of what women may face.
Jessica Joseph, an administrative supervisor based in Dubai, never experienced any form of harassment while she was growing up. But, during her university years, she had her first bad experience.
She said: “The professor wanted to give me some extra classes to get extra marks.”
For someone who had just joined university, she assumed it was a genuine offer. However, when she showed up at his place, he clarified that he wanted to “spend some time with me”.
Joseph said: “He said he didn’t want to force me and at that point in time, I didn’t say anything to anyone. I was worried he might fail me or ask me to leave the class. He could also say that I approached him.”
So, she kept quiet. But, when it was time to graduate, the same professor started creating trouble. At that point, she decided to bluff and told him she had proof against him. He backed off.
At a later stage, when she entered the professional world, she received an indecent offer from one of her bosses. When she declined, he started mistreating her at work and would ask her to do his personal tasks. Additionally, he also texted her some indecent photographs of himself.
She said: “He made my life miserable. It went on for two months, after which I went to the founder and opened up and showed him the pictures. He apologised and said he wasn’t aware of the situation.”
Despite that, nothing was done about the case and Joseph left the job. Her reason for not reporting the case to the authorities in both instances was that the people were of a higher designation.
She said: “They may have contacts and even if reported, the authorities might have told us to settle the case between the two parties. Many women may think like that, too. #MeToo, however, will be good for the coming generations. I don’t want them to go through the same thing that we did.”
Syeda Maheen Jafri, a banker based in Dubai, has also gone through a troublesome experience. She was shopping once and a man kept passing her in the aisles of the supermarket and “touching me with his hand”. The first time it happened, she thought it was a mistake. But, when he did it again, she turned around and glared at him, ready to create a scene if he tried it again.
She said: “Many women of my culture may not report it because it is a taboo subject. The minute a woman speaks up about it, the family may shun her, especially if it is to do with another family member. They wonder, ‘what will people say?’, not worry about the girl.”
What is normal?
In such a case, Jafri believes that the girl might assume that it is “normal to be touched” by a stranger. This is where the family’s support is the most important.
She said: “Everyone should be made aware of good and bad touch. And if a girl speaks up, the parents will support her. Society is to blame for women not reporting the crimes against them.”
#MeToo in Jafri’s opinion is too late. If women had raised their voices earlier, things wouldn’t have gotten this bad. But, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction.
She said: “It has built up confidence amongst many women who were earlier afraid to speak up. Harassment is still happening, but now women are talking about it. This is a good movement.”
Movements like #MeToo seem to give courage to women, as stated by Andrews. She said: “Seeing and hearing other women speaking up encourages the survivors of sexual assault to open up about their own experiences, as it lessens the social shame and stigma. Especially role models and celebrities. Seeing so many others speak up in the #MeToo movement has empowered many women to break their silence.”
Additionally, seeing other attackers being brought to justice and receiving the rightful punishment could also be an encouraging factor.
Andrews said: “If the perpetrator is held accountable for his actions and brought to justice, that makes all women feel safer and inclined to speak up. It is important psychologically to tell our story and speak our truth. It is when parts of our personal stories are shrouded in shame and secrecy that they hold a terrible power over us, which can lead to the development of serious mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and interpersonal problems.”
Another important factor for women is equality. When they feel like equals, they are more likely to raise their voice.
Jaime Napier, an assistant professor of psychology based in Abu Dhabi, explains: “For instance, in Sweden, which has very high gender equality, women are more likely to report sexual harassment than anywhere else in the world. Because they feel safe reporting it. There is not a culture of ‘slut shaming’ and people will be apt to believe their claims.”
#WhyIDidntReport: Women share unreported cases of abuse
By Evangeline Elsa, Community Solutions Editor
Dubai: The first time it happened, I was 11. I was at a friend’s house with some playmates. We were playing hide and seek in the community park. Her cousin, a young man with a lanky frame repeatedly tried to corner me, to hug and touch me. He was hurting me, I kept trying to escape.
Later, feeling thirsty, I went up to drink water. As I returned from the kitchen to the living room, I saw him waiting, staring. I realised I was alone with him in the room, my heart raced and I dashed towards the main door. I locked him in and ran down.
I still remember sitting under the shower crying that evening. I felt dirty.
The next time, I was 14. And, it was a distant relative. But, these were not the only two incidents.
I never spoke to my parents or friends about these grim experiences. Sometimes, I didn’t know what to tell them or I was scared. At times I thought it was my mistake.
Whenever there is a news report of a sexual harassment case, a question often raised by men in power is, if the woman really had a problem, why did she not report it earlier?
Thousands of women, have finally answered on social media with the hashtag #Ididntreportit. They used the viral hashtag to discuss the sexual harassment they faced at school, home, work, on the roads and everywhere else, and why they remained silent.
According to an earlier Gulf News report, it all began when Christine Blasey Ford, 51, came forward as the writer of a letter in which she accused Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, of pinning her on a bed, groping her and covering her mouth to keep her from screaming when they were teenagers.
Judge Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.
The hashtag #IDidntReportIt, was started several years ago by a London Feminist Network blogger.
Women are scared to report it
Twitter user @AndiT_66 posted: “No woman should be afraid to tell the truth about what happened to her. #IDidntReport”
But women are afraid.
Tweep @Rebecca09531449 posted: “I was 18, he was 30. He raped me and my friend. When we tried to get away he beat us both. I haven’t heard the sound of her voice in seven years. #IDidntReport because I was scared he’d come back and finish what he started.”
It was a family member and it would cause trouble
Like hundreds of others, @bloodjuuice tweeted: “#ididntreport because he was a family member and no one would believe me, a six year old. I tried to pretend it didn’t happen, so I wouldn’t tear apart my family. Now I know that holding my family together by not speaking out about being assaulted is not my responsibility.”
Tweep @Dayniaa posted: “Because I was 13 and he was my cousin’s grandfather. #IDidntReport although my family knew and stood by and did nothing.”
#BelieveSurvivors: Lack of support
Have we normalised this whole culture of abuse? According to some women, they reported but were not believed. When others reported, they were told to deal with it. Hashtag #BelieveSurvivors also quickly became a trend as women shared their stories.
@Samallyson tweeted: “#ididntreportit because it was a family member at first. And then as an adult, when it wasn’t a family member, I got told to deal with it when I did report it. Now I see my second abuser every day in a place I should feel safe.”
@tacocatZzZ: “The first time it happened, I went straight to the management and they did nothing about it. It happened the second time, and I was told I was overreacting. The third time? See how I still have to somehow explain why #ididntreportit.”
The first time it happened, I went straight to management & they did nothing about it. It happened the second time, and I was told I was overreacting. The third time? See how I still have to somehow explain why #ididntreportit.— 🦋 (@tacocatZzZ) September 22, 2018
Many saluted the courage that women had finally shown to share their stories. Tweep @MaggieKeresteci wrote: “I’ve been thinking about victims of sexual assault who have bravely told their stories at #IDidntReport. Please let’s keep their courage and their pain front of mind while debating the issues about #KavanaughConfirmation. No political agenda supersedes their pain and trauma.”
Women all across the world seem to have accepted these incidents as a part of their life. Some moved on and said it made them stronger, while others have suffered trauma and depression for years. Some spoke up, but most were silent.
However, many of those who didn’t report, have come out to express that they wish they had spoken up sooner.
@Hazel_eyes_Jen tweeted: “#WhyIDidntReport I was eight. I was ashamed. I blamed myself. When I finally told, I was 18 and I was told by multiple people that I should have told sooner because ‘what if he did it to someone else?’. I later found out there were three more after me and I blame myself. I’m so sorry.”
Now, I have a son. There are two things I try to teach him every day - real boys don’t hurt girls and when someone says “no”, it means “no”. There are no two ways about it.