By Benish Saleem
THE shocking nature of the incident, the surreal and subtle criticism of it, the audacity of the people blaming her and a fact that she was alone against 400 men has already received a considerable amount of attention last week.
She appears in one of the interviews and the host inquiries about the incident. The first thing she tries to do is to convince the audiences that she was wearing modest clothes and did not call for an encounter. I wondered why would she even start her interview with that statement? Why did she not talk about her terrifying ordeal straightaway, but then a stream of comments followed, shaming and blaming her choice to be at the public place full of men. Narratives unfolded one after the other, some suspecting the credibility of her testimony, while others doubting the authenticity of it. Perhaps, for them the video of the incident was not convincing enough.
But then why does she have to convince that she was not wearing indecent clothes? Isn’t it obvious that even if a woman is not adhering to a particular dress code, no one has a right to victimise her? Her clothes, her conduct, her demeanour shall not have anything to do with the crime. The men lusting over, touching inappropriately and performing un-Islamic acts on a woman shall bear all the responsibility of their actions.
I could not understand what the men who groped and assaulted her were thinking at that time. Was it their extreme sense of entitlement or was it their utmost belief that they will get away with the crime? I can not read their minds but all I know is that the society gives courage to such men by undermining the severity of their crimes. Let’s take an example of any sexual assault or murder. Always the women were declared responsible for their misfortunes. Be it Qandeel Baloch, or a Woman on a motorway or any other woman who is out in a marketplace, school or college in her plain modest clothes is subjected to such threats. And not only that, they also need to walk around cautiously as not to invoke those frail men and their desires.
I have a good solution to separate all these men from a society, the ones who were involved in that mass sexual assault and the ones that want a cure for their sexist rigid ideas of masculinity. Let’s enforce some really tougher laws for them. The ones that are capable to prevent such sexual offences in future. It will certainly raise the level of safety for women and help to get rid of those sadists. And the ones who still can not empathize with the victim and continuously ridicule her for her public displays of emotional vulnerability, you should all be ashamed of yourselves.
To my mind, I saw a young woman being trampled upon by hundreds of men who were treating her like an object. Her face was visibly unsettled, evoking the genuine fear that looked completely unrehearsed. Her means of escape were blocked. She was molested and assaulted yet no one cared to help her. She was overpowered and maltreated and yet some of us still tried to manipulate the facts as such to make it look like her mistake. But how far can we take this narrative of victim blaming? Why always digging in to find faults with the women? Why not understand that your perceived level of modesty has nothing to do with the actions of the perpetrators.
In my opinion, another reason why our society is so quick to project the blame onto women is to put more responsibility on their shoulders for their own safety. That is the main reason this narrative of victim blaming is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is another way to dominate women and constantly scaring them away by making examples out of other women and freeing men of their brutal crimes. However, little do they know, that safety of their women lies in the hands of their boys and men. They need to learn to stop abusing, harassing, sexually assaulting and demeaning women. We also need to understand that their predatory responses are completely irrelevant of women’s clothes. And as far as this particular incident is concerned, all the people responsible for the crime must be convicted or else they will go on to attack other women in the same manner.
(The writer is a journalism student at university of London Birkbeck and is an active member of university’s student union). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)