Saturday September 25, 2021

Appalling reactions

September 16, 2020

The misogyny-ridden, cringe-worthy, downright tone-deaf and insensitive hits just keep on coming in the aftermath of the gang-rape which took place on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway a few days ago. To put it extremely mildly, we have seen some very disturbing reactions from across the political and social spectrum. First off, there was the CCPO Lahore whose initial statement – which he then proceeded to repeat persistently – can only be called a prime example of blatant victim-blaming. After serious outcry over his behavior, we now see an ‘apology’ issued by the CCPO. Sadly, it seems this is all we will get – despite widespread demands that he be asked to resign so that the women of Lahore feel like at least their voice is heard by those in power.

Next came the prime minister, who in an interview five days after the motorway gang-rape, linked increasing divorce rates and societal obscenity with the ‘family system’ and an increase in sex crimes. He also spoke about Bollywood contributing to the rape epidemic in Delhi, and about preferring public hangings for certain crimes. Not to be outdone was Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif whose well-known affinity for roads and motorways took an all-new – and extremely callous – turn when he stood in the National Assembly and while condemning the gang-rape thought it ‘appropriate’ to comment that the motorway was in fact built by Mian Nawaz Sharif. Encouragingly, Mr Sharif did the right thing and apologised on social media for his appallingly insensitive remarks. Meanwhile, both Murad Saeed and Shireen Mazari were jeered at in the National Assembly just for having the courage and decency to speak with empathy about the rape case.

So this is where we stand. A Pakistan where men will mostly get away with rape, sexism and misogyny. Where women will come and protest but their voices will be drowned out by the over-zealous political point-scoring and opportunism dripping from every single political player. Where the police are more worried about what time women step out of their homes. Where those in power think ‘moral decay’ adds to offences such as rape and paedophilia. There is still little introspection within the state and within the people. The calls to violence are not the reaction of a people shaken, but that of a people so used to violence that even their grief and their fear and their empathy somehow find resolution in the act of hanging or lynching or castrating. The larger debate – of violence against women, rape as a crime of power, women’s place in an increasingly stifled and oppressive society – remains lost among these calls for death and moral righteousness.