What Pakistan can learn from India’s Daughter

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jyoti-mar5I finally gathered some courage to watch the much-talked-about India’s Daughter documentary by BBC Four. Going over the gruesome details of the gang-rape and murder of Jyoti Singh was gut-wrenching to say the least. The documentary highlighted the extent of the rampant problem of rape in India and people’s attitude towards it — the one that is the direct consequence of the deep-rooted patriarchy.

Like it was shown in the documentary, the natural reaction of the offenders and their apologists is “she deserved it” or “we did it to teach her a lesson”. One would hope to see the convicted rapists and murderers to show some remorse during the interview in the documentary, only to be disappointed.

So, other than bashing India and cheering that they have achieved extremely bad press, what does this documentary and the whole Jyoti Singh case mean for Pakistan? Is our rape problem any different? Are we any better? I’ll leave that for you to answer… can you swear to God and say that watching this documentary wasn’t like looking in a mirror? Rape, honour-killing, Wani and the deep-rooted patriarchy…sounds familiar right? The only difference, perhaps, is that several rape cases go unreported due to the reasons like shame, trauma and the legal system here.

There might be one other difference; India has actually started addressing the problem. Have we? Don’t be misguided by Punjab Chief Minister’s full page ‘women protection’ advertisements. The only way out is to truly tackle the problem. Following are the lessons that us, Pakistanis, should seriously learn from Jyoti Singh, the unfortunate India’s (or should I say South Asia’s) daughter.

1. Women are equal to men

Jyoti Singh and her parents’ message that is now reaching out to the masses teaches us the most basic lesson about the humanity; i.e. men and women, daughters and sons are equal. Women have a right to have ambitions and dreams; and a right to equal opportunities to achieve those dreams.

2. Break the silence

We have to commend people in India to come out on streets and break the silence. That is what we need to do here in Pakistan. Instead of urging rape victims to remain silent, we need to do our part to get help (psychological, trauma management and legal etc) to the survivor.

3. Awareness and Education

As sickening as it was listening to rapists’ defense lawyers telling how they were ‘proud’ of their ‘culture’ of treating women like objects; and how he would have burnt his own daughter had she been out late with a guy, it didn’t surprise me a bit. As someone from South Asian background, we’re used to hearing misogynistic and patriarchal slurs from people; especially men around us. I remember how a superior at one of the organizations where I worked once told me women are of ‘faulty-intellect’ by default; and how a female colleague once told me she doesn’t want rights because if women were in leadership place, the world would go upside down; Stockholm syndrome much?

And then we have religious leaders — some even educated (apparently) ones like Dr Zakir Naik — who say the way a woman dresses is to be blamed if she is raped. It’s time we started questioning these absurd beliefs. People need to be educated and made aware about gender-equality, rights and boundaries.

An individual’s voice might only falls to the deaf ears but with support from the civil society, community based organizations and the power of media, the ball can get rolling.

I can break it down to specifics if you still don’t get it:

– Staying out late doesn’t make her of bad character

– If you can wear whatever you want, she can too

– No, the way she dresses doesn’t mean she’s asking for it… the problem is with your gaze and instinct to assault someone

– She has a right to equal education

– She has the right to work along side men, and on equal footing — and just because a woman is working doesn’t automatically means she has a bad ‘character’. Because by your definition of character, she will be bad no matter what she does.

– She is equally capable of assuming a leadership role

If we still don’t get it then the joke is on us because we’re no different than those horrible men we saw in the documentary.

Women shouldn’t drive, says the creep behind the pretty face

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This blog post was originally published on Laaltain magazine

jjJunaid Jamshed – our very own pop sensation turned religious personality – has been called out before for his Tableeghi Jamaat-influenced preaching but has managed to maintain a deceptively innocent and arguably moderate persona on TV for years. Whatever the reason, Junaid enjoys a warm place in viewers’ hearts as he continues to host highly commercial shows, including Ramazan transmissions, year after year.

It is only recently that I became aware of the shocking creep behind the ‘cool-maulvi’ persona that came out in one of the shows on TV, where he made highly inflammatory comments about women and how to ‘control’ them that should be regarded as outrageous by any standards.

In Nida Yasir’s show, Junaid Jamshed was heard passing judgments on women, claiming that those who watch TV soap operas and other such shows all day won’t give birth to pious children like ‘Khalid Bin Walid’.
Next, the former pop sensation and so-called heartthrob revealed how he dealt with the insecurity he felt from his wife. Admitting that his wife ‘was’ very pretty in her youth, he said he didn’t teach his wife how to drive a car fearing she might leave him.

He then uttered the golden words of wisdom for men in an already patriarchal society that should put any sane mind to shame:

If any man is watching…I want to tell him that the biggest favour you can do yourself is to not teach your wife how to drive a car or a motorcycle…because if a woman makes it a habit to stay out of the house, she cannot remain at home”

In case you didn’t know, this is misogyny 101 right here. It’s the same attitude that is threatened by women’s empowerment; the same mentality that believes in stopping women from knowing their rights; the kind of thinking that even prevents women from getting an education.

We all remember why the TTP attacked Malala, don’t we? I won’t compare savages like the TTP to the ignorant former pop sensation but the narrative is the same. And it is one that can potentially lead to violence against women. Who knows what the insecure macho men who took Junaid Bhai’s advice would do when their wives asked for rights.
The show’s presenter Nida Yasir, a prominent TV personality herself, countered the argument by asking about a situation where women were forced by circumstance to manage things themselves, including paying bills, going to the markets and running households.

To this, the wise Junaid Bhai simply said that ‘hypothetical’ scenarios should not be presented to him, adding that he doesn’t even want to answer such unlikely things. The ignorance displayed by a man of his prominence is quite astounding. I know dozens of real life examples where widows and women whose husbands left them have to deal with the harsh reality of lives all by themselves. These women are left with no choice but to work and support their households alone.

But that’s not even the point. Even if women have their husbands and other male relatives around, is this how a woman’s life is to be controlled – first by her father and brothers and then by her husband? Should society give the right to any control-freak to essentially cut the wings of the women in his house according to his own whim?
This is the very mind-set we all have to stand up against. Women are not the property of men, they never were. They are as much a person as any man. They also get their lives just once and have every right to spend it the way they want. They must have an equal chance to build their careers and independence.

We must raise our voices by calling out creeps like Junaid Bhai on this and demanding a public apology from him. We have to make it clear to such men that it’s not okay to control a woman’s life just because your petty little ego might get hurt.

Through this article, I would also urge Junaid’s wife to take matters in her own hands and learn to drive if that is what she wants. She shouldn’t need her husband’s permission for this.

And lastly, to the men who might have taken Junaid Jamshed’s advice too seriously, no relationship is worth controlling and imposing if it’s built upon trust. If you and your wife trust each other, she won’t leave you no matter how many times she goes out. On the other hand, if your relationship is not built upon trust, your jealousy and insecurity cannot keep your woman from leaving you, even if you were to keep her chained.

In case there was any doubt that Junaid Jamshed was presenting an Islamic opinion on that show, I’m afraid not. Here’s what a Sahih Hadith has to say:

Abu Huraira reported Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) as saying: Good amongst the women are those who ride camels. One of them said: They are pious women of the Quraish, and the other one said: The women of the Quraish are kind to the orphans in their childhood and look after the wealth of their spouses.

(Ref: Sahih Muslim, Chapter: Concerning the Merits of Women of the Quraish, Hadith number: 6137)