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"Daactar Saab, teeka laga dain".

By~Romesa Qaiser Khan, that intermediate year between 1st and 2nd.

(All opinions expressed therein belong to the author and do not reflect on the University in any way neither is the University responsible for them.)

This cringe-worthy line of a title is exactly what it sounds like. One of the countless catcalls we've all heard at one point or another in time. Old/young, short/tall, conservative/modern, it makes no difference. Whether in an abaya or jeans, we're all part of the faceless to the layman out to vent his frustration. Merely "The Objects".

hear, hear.
The dictionary defines harassment as "to trouble persistently and incessantly". Somehow, this clinical interpretation fails to encompass the ugly, many-headed monster that is harassment, which sprouts more heads every time you chop one off, each uglier than the last. Catcalls, jeers, innuendos, objectification, humiliation, disrespect, leers are some of its many faces. We may not acknowledge them all, we may not recognize them. We may choose to ignore them even. But they lurk on the very peripheries of the little bubble of sheltered life inside our universities and homes, just waiting to surface every time we step out of their protected confines.


In light of a recent case of harassment that caused much uproar at a prominent and respected university, I set out to inquire just how many of us are subjected to it daily and just as casually brush it off. Of all the students at various universities I asked, 30 % said no, while 15% were unsure of what exactly harassment entails. A resounding 55% admitted that at least at once they had been exposed to inappropriate behavior. A minority further confessed to being approached personally by harassers or actually being subjected to physical contact. In the limited scope of people investigated, these numbers are far too high to be ignored or made light of.

While most people would argue that many things I've grouped into the heading are "harmless" or just "part of our society's thinking", I beg to differ. Just because the threat hasn't manifested itself, doesn't mean it won't. Just because something untoward hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it won't. Safety is a mere illusion that is shattered everyday by the countless stories of acid-throwing and assaults even on children that we come across everyday yet we choose to remain deaf, dumb and blind. How much more of a wake up call are we going to need?


Close to home, at KE we enjoy a conservative yet free environment. Most of us, have never been uncomfortable here. But not all. An isolated incident of an attendant harassing a classmate puts the purpose of this article into perspective. The classmate's hand was grabbed amongst other repulsive behavior by the attendant, yet out of sheer embarrassment, she didn't tell us for days afterwards. When she did, the response was so typically classic of our society's mindset and so disheartening, that she failed to report the attendant, leaving him free to misbehave with other students. What was she told? "Scene maat create kerna ab" "tumhari ghalti hai partly, akelay kyun gai thi" "just ignore him" "H.O.D. will not believe you" "bezti hogi baat phail gai to". The age old fears that stop us every time we set out to confront the evil we all see but pretend not to. The saddest part of this narration is perhaps the fact, that it is not only strangers but also classmates and colleagues who are on the dark side of the line. Girls have narrated countless stories of catcalls, taunts and misbehavior from their batch mates. People have crossed lines encompassing all decency in arguments on social media of all places and threats and derogatory remarks about the "inferiority" of women have been made. Not only this, a page was put up on facebook a year or so ago, specifically targeted at photoshopping pictures of various students in a disrespectful manner. A girl at another medical university tells of a PG trainee who always put her on night shifts, even when other people's names on the rosters and pressuring her to do her male colleagues' duties as well.


And if these few and exceptional cases of harassment inside the universities boggle the mind, then one only needs to step outside merely onto the footpaths leading to the teaching hospitals or even at bus stops and the teasing becomes rampant. Drawing from personal experience along with many other girls, students have been surrounded by bikers and jeered at, even bedridden and wheelchair bound patients in wards at every hospital can come up with "check up" puns that'll put the most creative minds to shame.



Who are these people and who gave them the right to judge us? To put limitations on us? Why does no one hold them accountable? Why do we have to fight for freedom of choice over the most basic things like what to wear? These are rhetorical questions for which there never has been an answer and never will be. The world may harrumph and hoo-ha about equality and feminism but in the end, the centuries old flaws that have been ingrained in the upbringing of our male counterparts in the name of a "male-dominated" society cannot be fixed. What is halal for them, will always be haraam for us.


So then what can we do? Speak out for starters. I'm well aware of the censure this post will receive for portraying the university in a bad light, for telling all these stories, for passing judgement on a matter they'll tell me I'm too young to understand. But I'll speak out nonetheless. And so should everyone else who has ever been harassed like my classmate was. Report the incident to a superior immediately. If you don't stand up for yourself, no one else ever will. If you have to make a choice between making a stand on feminism or dressing conservatively to preserve your integrity, then make the sacrifice. Support anyone who has been harassed and encourage them to come forward instead of scaring them into silence. Spread awareness. Overcome the embarrassment and the instinct to hide and ignore and forget. And never encourage any lower staff by being friendly for getting your work done because by this, you not only humble yourself but also set the chain for harassment in motion by letting them think that everyone else is also bait. Lastly, to all the guys out there. Please. Respect every woman. Stand up for them if anyone amongst you misbehaves with one. Even if you never harass someone, you sin by silence if you watch it happen and do not stop it. It in no way takes away from your "macho" behaviour, rather saves you from chauvinism and bigotry and will earn you the respect and gratitude of every victim.


The purpose of this blog has been to point out the elephant in the room and to instruct and advise the female student population. If anyone of you needs help, all your bajis and bhais (the good guys exist too and they far outnumber the bad) will help you without a second thought and without passing any judgements. All you have to do is be brave.


Comments

  1. Everyone has the right to remain silent. But being silent in such a matter becomes a crime. SPEAK IT OUT LOUD.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Compelling stuff.

    ReplyDelete

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