In light of the recent events, the media fraternity came out in droves during a peaceful protest titled ‘ENOUGH! STOP RAPE’ at the Karachi Press Club to demand security and protection for women and children following a surge in rape cases in Pakistan. At the protest, 5-year-old Marwah’s father was present at the protest to seek justice for his daughter among a roster of Pakistani celebrities - including Frieha Altaf, Mahirah Khan, Adnan Siddiqui, Sarwat Gillani, Ayesha Omar, Ali Rehman, Yasir Hussain, Sarah Khan, Natasha Baig, Anoushey Abbasi, Saqib Malik, Asim Jofa, Deepak Perwani, Maheen Khan, Bushra Ansari, Mansha Pasha, Asad Siddiqui, Gul-e-Rana, Nubain Ali, Wardah Saleem, Sunita Marshall, Hassan Ahmed, Sheema Kermani, Asim Raza and Hajra Yamin among others.
At the protest they talked about issues that included swift, effective and transparent investigation of gender- based crimes, with fair and speedy trials with relevant legislation put into place; and banning the requirement of two finger tests. On a practical level the 10-point agenda also demands the establishment of gender- based reporting cells and more solid support for survivors and victims of violence as well as improving security systems by adding street cameras, creating available helplines and putting into place witness protection programmes.
On a societal level, a divisive point that was addressed in the agenda was of public hanging and capital punishment. These were said to serve and placate citizens ‘but not prevent or deter rape’. Instead, the agenda denounced misogyny and patriarchal mindsets and demanded the removal of misogynistic-minded men in power and suggested a pro-active change in school and college curriculums to encourage a mindset of equality among all genders. They also talked about imposition of Sex Offender Registry to be maintained & Chemical Castration for Rapists. Moreover, to ensure Zainab Alert bill in all provinces of Pakistan with the contact numbers-1022 to be displayed in Hospitals, Educational institutions and Police stations.
At the protest, Mahirah Khan spoke about the inherent issues in our culture, “We constantly associate shame with abuse, anything to do with ‘sex’. We are talking about sexual abuse, not the other way around. The topic itself is so vast.” The actor called for the producers to revisit our narratives on what we show on films and TV. “When I say that we need to change narratives, I mean we need to see who our heroes are. Are they always going to be hitting their wives, abusing them? Will they always cheat on them? Who are these men?”
PR maven Frieha Altaf condemned the recent atrocities done against women and children, “It saddens me, it angers me to have to raise my voice against such barbaric incidents. We saw in Zainab’s case. Hanging the culprit does not bring the needed change that is not the solution. After Zainab’s case, we saw a rise in 16 per cent of the rape cases. We have to find answers elsewhere.”
On top of the rally’s agenda is an end to violence against women, children, and transgender and non-binary persons by patriarchal forces including state-backed mechanisms; and to ensure that the Government upholds the rights of women and marginalised genders and enforces justice when those rights are violated. Furthermore, the agenda demanded radical and procedural reforms of all public institutions to uphold these rights which includes ‘accountability from any public official who fails to recognise the aforementioned rights or perpetuates victim-blaming myths’; especially in light of Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umer Sheikh initially suggesting that the motorway gang-rape survivor shared responsibility for her rape who has since apologised for his earlier remarks.