If you ask me, it is not difficult to understand. But yet people act like they do not understand it. This problem in Pakistan is like a white elephant in the room that no one sees. No, I am not talking about terrorism. We all see that elephant. We just insist that it is a cat.
I am talking about sexual harassment of women on the streets of Pakistan. It was a way of life for us. Whenever we had to go to school or college, either we had to walk in form of groups or my brother or father had to accompany us. Whenever no one was available to chaperone us to our school, we stayed home. Why would my mother not let us go out alone? Because we were not safe being alone on the street. You see everyday countless girls going to places in form of groups and with chaperones. Do you know what happens if a girl is left alone behind accidentally? A man comes out of nowhere and starts walking really close to her saying things like, “sano ve lay chal nal vay(take me with you)” or “Aj tay sano lift kara day-yo (please pay some attention to me today)” and things of that nature. Then that girl starts trembling inside that big chadar(shawl) and she starts walking really fast and of course if no one else is around, man too starts walking really fast with her. When that girl gets home, cries, and tells her mother about the incident, her mother says, “Did I not tell you to wait for your brother to come home and take you? You wanted to hear all this and this is why you went outside alone.” How many of you were thinking the same thing? That she should not have gone out alone?
Believe it or not, it is a way of life in Pakistan. It is an acceptable part of the culture. Women stay inside the house and are not to leave without a chaperone. I saw nothing wrong with it then. It was only when I came to USA and actually enjoyed going to places alone without being harassed is when I realized that how wrong our cultural practice in Pakistan is. Now I know that how wrong it is to take away your very basic right of free mobility from you.
Women are harassed on the streets of Pakistan regularly and on daily basis. Men try to touch you and grope you whenever they find you alone. Women are rubbed against regularly on the buses. And I recently heard that this kind of harassment is also common against little boys in Pakistan.
When I say all that, it makes an average Pakistani mind very angry, in spite of the fact that these average Pakistanis themselves have faced this on several occasions, they are either trained to accept it as a regular life style and feel that of course you have to have a chaperone, or they feel that talking about this means we are defaming Pakistan. In Pakistan we believe that if we put a rug on the mud, it does not exist. As a nation, we do not clean our filth, we hide it. If it is hidden, it is not there.
Some even believe that practice of eve-teasing is a harmless practice. It is not harmless. It has taken a very basic human right away from women. A right to be on the roads freely. Everyone should have the right to freedom of movement.
Imagine a Pakistan where no brother would have to accompany his sisters to school every time! A Pakistan where women would be able to go to work alone and nobody will try to touch their private parts on the bus. Where they will not be pinched if found alone!
Interestingly, the claim that if a woman is in burka(veil) or chadar(shawl), she is less likely to be harassed due to her “modesty” is not true. Women in chador in Pakistan are a bigger target than the ones who are wearing modern clothes. Modern looking woman might belong to an influential family and you might have to pay the price for harassing her but since a chador wearing shy woman is most likely a middle class nobody, you can harass her without any fear. No one dares to harass women on the streets of USA, and in other western countries, even if they are half naked. That is freedom for women, and that is respecting your women my friend! While many of our Pakistani men, including my own father, claim that our Pakistani women are respected more than a western woman, let me tell you guys something. You respect your own mothers and sisters. That man standing on the street has no respect for your sisters or mother. He harasses them. How often are you that man?