Hundreds grope one

Pakistan’s is a sexually repressed, economically frustrated, religiously poisoned, and deeply patriarchal society where 90% of the men have not had a social interaction with a woman growing up, outside of their household. And certainly, do not know what it means to have females as friends. Even those from the households are not spared by men. The cases where a stepfather, a relative or a teacher rapes within the household are not unheard of. Now let’s look outside of the household.

A gathering of sexually frustrated men, ideologically backed by the likes of MTJ and Ansar Abbasi, theatrically supported by the scripts of Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar, and backed by the conservativeness of the premier – the great Imran Khan – himself, instantaneously become a ferocious mob on the sight of a single moderately dressed woman. A dangerous mob that would not hold from groping, mishandling, stripped naked and throwing and passing on a woman up in the air as if it was an object of entertainment to share with the crowd. A mob that knows a) women as being inferior, thanks in great part to the religion that lays the foundations of women as not being equal; b) an open-minded woman as being a great threat to the culture, thanks in great part to the social inequality and Pakistani society’s patriarchal foundations.

Mob Mentality:

Let us look at the role of mob. Mob by definition is a crowd with destructive intent. United for a shared cause, the individuals lose the sense of individual thinking and instead join the convenience of mob thinking. Mob mindset takes away the sense of awareness and individuality. We see that every day in religiously and politically charged gatherings where the bundle of sticks becomes stronger than the sum of individual sticks. As we know from cheerful gatherings at sport stadiums, the emotions of a crowd are stronger than the sum of individual emotions, be they be cheerfulness, anger, or frustration. Were you to interview any number of those men from the mob individually, they would most probably condemn such a behaviour. But in a mob, even the most condemnable of behaviours suddenly become acceptable as we saw happened for hours in Lahore. They say there is safety in numbers and that exactly what takes over the conscious of people in the form of a mob. People fail to take responsibility, and even if one would think of intervening, the reminder of repercussions at the hands of the same mob become a deterrent. Psychology tells us that people get involved when they are, or feel that they are, directly affected. The act of bouncing a woman from one person to other leads to the same conclusion of widespread sexual repression in Pakistani society.

Wrong ideals:

Any hint of conscious that would be left in individuals is wiped clean when religious preachers, politicians, leaders, all the way up to the prime minister himself would blame the victims for either wearing dresses too tempting or being at the wrong place at the wrong time and/or without the appropriate company. One incident after the other, men in power have blamed powerless women for the crimes in which they are the victims. A raped woman is asked why she was driving with her kids on a poorly lit highway as if ensuring that roads are well-lit and rape-free is also her responsibility. The character of a brutally murdered woman is posthumously questioned as to what she was doing with the murderer in the first place. Pakistan’s is a society where even the dead women are not safe in the depths of their graves.

An outdated religion and a twisted culture:

Despite what the majority wants to hear, religion of Islam does not treat women equally. It is religion, which should have the least authority in this age and time, that still tells us what is sin and what is acceptable. Marrying off a minor to a man thrice her age is acceptable while women shaking hands with their male counterparts is unacceptable. Religion should be the last contender when it comes to teaching morals. Unfortunately, in a society that is deliberately kept un-informed of the modern values and education is then left only with religion at their disposal as the sole source of guidance. Now if we base a society in 21st century on the ideals of 7th century or before, then we will simply be living in that age. No single idea is forever and no ideology is beyond criticism and reformation. Ideas change and adapt. What is taught today in the first year of a university education is expected to get outdated by the last year. That is how fast things are changing and adapting. Ideals of what we refer back to as dark ages compiled by men (both literally and figuratively) are not fit for today as they are. My one sentence message is that if you can’t replace it, at least reform it.

Culture – which is the interplay of religion, folklore, traditions, rituals, and beliefs matured over centuries – has an equal part to play. Pakistani culture looks upon an independent strong woman with frown. Prioritising boy’s education over girl’s is a convenient norm, for socio-economic reason which advertently puts women at the back of the queue of achieving social equality. It is the same culture that accepts a boy bending the rules as a daredevil while a woman bending the rules is seen as a cultural transgression. All cultures transform and they must. That’s exactly how new ones are formed over the millennia, borrowing from one another. Pakistani culture, specially around its treatment of women, needs to change too. Whether by evolution or revolt, whichever can deliver sooner.

Punish hundreds of men:

There is strong video evidence to capture at least a dozen of the culprits if not all the hundreds of men involved in this heinous crime. Will it help punishing them? Certainly will. Will it help enough? Certainly not. What needs to happen is a systematic and generational change in the way women are perceived, believed, and taught. A mega-transformation in society through injected-equality, education, culture, a judicious system of reward-and-punishment, halting prevalent culture of victim-blaming and swifter provision of justice is urgently needed. It starts at home and extends to the curriculum taught at schools. Every woman should be respected not for the length of her dress or for the choice of her career but for being.

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