Pakistan in the Age of #MeToo: The Accusations, Victim Blaming and the Society

By Muahammad Haseeb Alam.

Amid the growing global feminist movement of reporting and retaliating against sexual harassment why Pakistan doesn’t even believe the victims?

A few weeks ago a major sexual assault scandal involving two of the country’s biggest names in entertainment came to the public attention, a first of its kind and magnitude in Pakistan, taking the country and its social media sphere by storm with the chants of #MeToo getting loud. There were reactions from all sides and of all kinds, including theories, accusations and personal stories; however one thing that was scarce was any compassion or sympathy for the alleged victim or the public’s patience to hear her full story before passing their verdicts. But is this attitude exclusive to us? Would we react the same to someone we know personally? When will sexual misconduct cease to be the fault of the victim in this society?

So when a woman comes forward about being assaulted why don’t we believe her? Well a plausible explanation for many of the cases can be the fact that we often are reluctant to question the character or actions of our personal idols, beloved artists, public figures, or simply accepting and acknowledging the fact that an influential man from among us could be a vicious monster. But most of the times to be innocent all one has to be is a man, especially if the accused is a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance. Furthermore, it has been long established that our society seldom believes a woman, which even when presented with compelling evidence of her claims and innocence is often accused of having ulterior motives for making the claim and her character is put under question, and thus it is simply easier to believe the man who “doesn’t have a reason to lie”. It no longer might be socially acceptable to explicitly call women inferior to men, but the deep unconscious mental biases of this society still considers them to be not only less trustworthy but also deems their words unreliable.

As to why is the victim almost always blamed for the ordeal? We can again blame it on the entrenched and now subconscious misogyny of this society and its norms. We almost never question a man when he is a victim to any kind of crime since it would be considered out right absurd to question the victim, however if the victim happens to be a woman we are quick to blame it on the way she dressed, talked, acted or simply presented herself. It’s this deep rooted and generations old thought process of our society that always blames a woman’s plight on her decisions and character while a man’s on the circumstances. This results in, more often than not, the females being held guilty for bringing the assault upon themselves and the actions of men to simply “boys being boys” which they are said to have no control upon.

The good news is that we can change these attitudes, though slowly, through guidance from people most influential on the new generation’s conscience. With the movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp finally reaching our shores it’s about time we change our attitudes towards sexual assault and how we deal with its perpetrators and victims.  Instead of the public shaming and character assassination of the alleged victims, especially those who live in the public eye, listening to them and encouraging others like them can propel many nameless faceless women (and men) who had to endure sexual assault to finally speak and at least try to bring the perpetrators to justice. With the now famous cases of since disgraced powerful men around the world who not only got exposed but punished and ostracized by these movements, it is a no brainer that they can do the same here, only if we put ourselves to it. The change may not come tomorrow or the day after that, but surely if we take the right measures and are persistent then someday some future generation won’t have to suffer what many before them had to suffer and endure with no other choice.

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