Archives

CYBER STALKING AND HARASSMENT OF WOMEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA

stalking.jpg

As the internet and technology becomes an increasingly important part of our lives and social media becomes a critical space for us to make our voices heard, they are also being used as new dimensions of violence against women. Cyber harassment and violence against women has emerged as a global problem with serious implications for society. Millions of women around the world are subjected to online harassment and deliberate violence yet the problem of online violence and harassment is often overlooked in discussions of violence against women.

While women are seeing some success in their fight for empowerment offline, cyber bullying is a crucial battle that has to be won as well. The misogyny and bigotry of men becomes more prominent when they are hiding behind a computer. Cyber harassment includes a variety of online actions: harassment, spreading rumors, impersonation, trickery or exclusion, cyber stalking, bullying, trolling, blackmailing, non-consensual pornography, threatening and the invasion of privacy. These activities are usually performed through text messages or using social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Cyber violence against women is reaching to alarming proportions. Still it is accepted as a routine part of our daily lives and is shrugged off because the harassment did not occur in the ‘real’ world. In truth, harassment both online and offline can lead to psychological intimidation and emotional distress. Cultural norms and the idea of “honor” may be a reason for victims not to speak about it. Pakistani women usually don’t have much of a choice. If they reply, they’re feeding the trolls. If they ignore, the bullies won’t stop and the society won’t appreciate them taking the matter to courts and cops. They usually find themselves stonewalled by community attitudes. They have to face difficult procedures when it comes to reporting such issues.

stalking-graphic.jpeg

This attitude needs to shift. We must focus on the perpetrators of these crimes instead of putting the onus on the victim. Usually when a woman complains of cyber stalking she’s asked to quit, to shut down her social media accounts or to make them private but that’s not the solution. Most importantly, for women who are prolific bloggers, tweeps, instagrammars, facebook users and have a strong online following, shouldn’t go offline. Asking a woman to quit social media just because a bully has got access to internet is the most horrible thing to say. Not only because by saying so you are penalizing the victim but also because you’re asking for leaving the internet to cyber criminals and bullies. It’s not the women who need to quit, it’s the perpetrators who need to change their actions.

Law has failed to keep up with technology. The gaps are getting wider as technology advances ever more rapidly. Some abusive tactics are not illegal even when they violate a social media platform’s guideline. Others are legal even when they’re allowed by a social media platform. Law can’t fix these problems but a cultural change can. Beginning in the early childhood, social mores are in desperate need of reform. A moral collapse is destroying the foundations of our society. It’s a social problem and it needs a social response.

It must be acknowledged how online abuse can affect people and protocols must be developed to help the victims and prevent the online abuse. We have to expand freedom of expression and ensure fair public engagement. And to do so a fundamental shift is required in how we think about free speech, gender, mutual respect, moral values, self-respect and ‘honor’.

STOP COMPARING WOMEN TO CANDIES AND MOBILE PHONES

untitled.png

“A man asked a Muslim man: Why do your women cover their bodies and their hair? The Muslim man smiled and took two candies; he opened one and kept the other closed. He threw them both on the dirty floor and then asked: If I asked you to take one of the candies, which one would you choose? The man replied: The covered one. Then the Muslim man said: That’s how we see and treat our women.” (Author unknown)

I’ve been reading similar stories trying to make sense of hijab by using a particular analogy, like sweets and i-phones. At first glance, these stories appeared succinct and ingenious all at once. It’s probably the best way to convey the purpose of the hijab through a short story full of shrewd analogies. In fact, when I was young I used to love these stories as they made perfect sense to me. I was proud thinking that I was somehow superior to my uncovered fellow girls. To be completely honest, I was a misogynist too. I thought women should do this and should not do that simply because they are women. I used to judge women harsher that I did men. I expected women to behave the way the society taught me to think. And as a result, I did judge myself harsher than I judged my opposite gender. But today, when I look back, I regret how clouded my vision was.

Comparing a woman to an i-phone or a candy is silly and comparing the wrapper or a screen protector to hijab is taking away from its significance and purpose thereby creating a set of very misconstrued ideas about the hijab. Moreover, the idea that the wrapper makes a woman more preferable is itself irrational and smug.

Being born and raised in Pakistan, I’m familiar with the patriarchal way of living. Culture and religion are so heavily infused into daily life that it is hard not to notice the gender discrepancy. Men and women are treated differently and the saying “women belong to the kitchen” is still widely accepted as the local wisdom.

When globalization took place the proportion of world’s male and female population began to even out. The concept of gender equality grew stronger and women started getting more significant roles in the society. With time, the young generations began to leave the old patriarchal ways behind. But not fast enough in Pakistan unfortunately. Patriarchy is rooted deeply in our traditions, and even though the whole world has been changing, we still see evidence of misogynistic traits in our society.

The most noticeable of these traits is objectification of women. People still view woman as a fragile creature that has to be protected by the male sex. The so called religious people usually come up with arguments like “Women must wear modest clothes and cover themselves from head to toe so as not to temp men.” They also believe that if a woman is raped or harassed it’s her own fault as she “provoked” the abuser. Therefore in order to stay safe and “pure” a woman must cover herself according to the rules set by society. The only thing this whole mindset resulted in was burdening women with the responsibility of the actions and behavior of their opposite sex.

Here comes the metaphor of candies and i-phone screen protectors. How can you not notice how flawed these logic actually are? Candies and i-phones are things, personal belongings that can be bought and sold while women are human beings. Things don’t have any right to have an opinion; women do. Women are not meant for appraisal or intended for consumption. And analogies like these harm more than help in a world where women are already being treated like possessions.

It is sad to see people and especially women agreeing with such arguments. Stop believing that these kinds of examples elevate our gender. Because they are products of the same misogynistic culture that objectifies women as objects of desire and need. Women, agreeing with such arguments, are helping them succeeded in doing so big time.

Gender equality is an uncommon term here in Pakistan; patriarchy, however, is too deeply rooted in our culture. Even many educated people still believe that a man has to perform “manly duties” and has masculine behavior and a woman has to perform “womanly duties” and has feminine behavior. It is always about their genders and hardly ever about their personal choices.

SHIFTING SOCIAL NORMS TO STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Social and cultural norms can either protect women against abuse and violence or they can encourage the use of violence against them. The culture of violence against women persists in Pakistani society because it’s deemed acceptable. A religious and traditional belief that men are superior to women and they have a right to control them with use of force and discipline them through physical means makes women vulnerable to violence.

violence-against-women-01.jpg

Harassment, physical violence, bullying, attacks and cyber threats – It’s always there, isn’t it? Most of us don’t like it, but what can we actually do about gender-based violence? Challenging social norms to put an end to violence against women can be approached at different levels which include making government policies, mass media campaigns and educating masses.

The figures are terrible – violent crimes against women in Pakistan are reaching record levels with every passing year. It seems like it’ll take forever for the criminal justice system to cope with the number of women coming forward with terrible stories of rape, beatings and online forms of abuse. So what are our options? Is there any solution? Is there anything we can do as individuals to defy the culture of violence against women?sw13.jpg

Well, there is. But it requires a dramatic shift in social attitudes and public behaviors. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I’ve actually seen people expressing sympathy with a man on trial for rape, asking why the victim had to be on the wrong place at the wrong time. In Pakistan, the general public’s understanding of the law relating to consent is woefully lacking, and there is a persistent tendency to view victim’s behavior much more critically than that of the abuser who commits even violent assaults.

The same callousness is often shown to victims of domestic abuse, who are either blamed of lying or criticized for staying with violent partners even when they have no other choice. If we are serious about changing the dire situation, we have to put an end to a culture of denial and victim-blaming.

Sometimes I think that we are making some progress but every single time the apparent advance is quickly followed by a return to the status quo. A few months ago, after the horrific killing of Qandeel Baloch, there was an outpouring of shock and sympathy. But that consensus didn’t last long. Her brother confessed to killing her for family honor and some people literally went on social networking sites to justify this cruel murder by calling the model immodest and mocking everyone who was condemning her murder.

qandeel3.jpg

Many celebrated the murder of Qandeel Baloch calling her a disgrace instead of standing against it.

The attitude that being bullied with comments on ones looks is just another hazard. Let me quote an example from our parliament house when while using derogatory language, specifically targeting a woman, our defense minister pointed towards Sheerin Mazari and said, “Someone make this tractor trolley keep quiet” when she protested to his speech on load shedding during Ramadan. When even the parliamentarians cannot correctly identify a gender-specific form of abuse, it’s safe to assume that we have reached a startling level of denial as a nation.

Abuse against women in our society is at epidemic proportions. Some of this violence is driven by technology but the biggest problem by far is tolerance. A society which is genuinely committed to gender equality would never put up with a situation like this for a moment. But violence against women is embedded into our culture. The reason is that we, as a society, let it slide and have become immune to the dangerous implications. It will take a lot of effort to shift toward a culture that turns away from violence and abuse, but to make this dream possible we have to stand together as one. Being a part of society, the responsibility lies on our shoulders to help rid the world of abuse and violence. We, who have the voices and the power to do so, must choose to stand up and speak out.

_90433934_honourkillings-2

Most of the victims of violence and abuse suffer in silence and there are a very few who can find the strength to speak up or seek help. The question is what will you do to help the victims end this suffering?

LET’S SAY NO TO CULTURAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

end-violence-web-tile

Violence against women is the ugliest reality that’s all too common; no matter what walk of life people come from. Yet it’s still a hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment and assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence against women has become such a deep part of our cultures and our lives.

Abuse against women at workplace is widespread more in underdeveloped counties like Pakistan. Domestic and physical abuse is, however, common in all parts of the world. No matter how hard we try to prevent violence against women by passing laws, it still happens to be the most common cause of trauma to women.

Physical abuse against women in Pakistan is an endemic social problem. Many women are in abusive situations that they cannot get away from because of social pressures and fears or just because they think that by speaking they will provoke the abuser to inflict further pain and misery.

Violence against women is woven into the fabric of Pakistani society to such an extent that most of the time the person who is victimized is treated is if she was at fault. Whereas those who perpetrate violence feel justified and usually they get away with their crimes because of the strong societal messages that say that harassment, abuse and other forms of violence against women are acceptable.

A video went viral on social media today when a female reporter of a private TV channel K-21 was slapped by an FC guard. She was doing a live show about the problems faced by citizens at NADRA registration office. This case was just another example of women abuse from our everyday lives. It got coverage and became a trending topic today because the victim was a journalist and the incident happened online.

 

Violence against women is a grave violation of human rights and it should be condemned without any ifs and buts. The impact of violence against women ranges from immediate to long-term multiple physical and mental consequences. People tend to overlook but this behavior affects women’s general well-being in a very negative way and it prevents them from participating fully in the society.

The violence inflicted on one woman not only has negative consequences for one person but it also affects her family and her community. The consequences can last for generations and can hold back any development and sometimes they may fuel cycles of conflict. The cost we have to pay for this social behavior is tremendous and it’s far bigger than just health care and legal expenses. Turning a blind eye towards this issue will result in loss in productivity and it will impact national budgets and overall development.

The hard work and struggle of civil society and women right organizations is finally putting an end to gender-based violence on national and international agendas. Pakistan has passed a bill against domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. The big challenge, however, remain in implementing the law and ensuring a woman’s access to safety and justice. Unfortunately, enough hasn’t done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.

We have to stop violence against women because for too long, too many women around the country have experienced terrible abuse. According to a study carried out in 2009 by Human Rights Watch, it is estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of women in Pakistan have suffered some form of abuse. An estimated 5000 women are killed per year from domestic violence, with thousands of others maimed or disabled.

We also have to tackle the culture of discrimination that allows violence against women to take place and justifies it. We have to help women into work, to support their access to all careers at all levels, and to close the gender pay gap.

WHAT DOES PAKISTANI WOMEN WANT

Hey Farzana! Oh dear, your skin looks terrible. I could barely recognize you. You’ve got this awful acne. OMG I can’t believe your skin has tanned this much. Why aren’t you taking care of it? Have you seen some skin specialist? I’ve heard it has something to do with your hormones? Are you fine? Why don’t you try a new haircut? Get a new makeover to hide your acne. Go to a beauty salon and get that gold facial treatment and don’t forget to use Faiza beauty cream okay?

151p1

Shumaila! Hey sweetheart! It took me a while to recognize you. Why’re you wearing makeup? Are you leaving for a wedding or what? Stay simple it’s the official proof of a woman’s modesty; besides, men like simple women. And what’s with this haircut? Dear Lord! You had such beautiful long hair, why the hell on earth would you get this hair style? It has got more than half of your face covered.

151p1-1

Hi Farzana! How are you doing my child? Done with your medical degree? Congrats for the distinctions you got and I’ve heard you won a scholarship to study in the US. That’s great but why’s you so careless when it comes to your weight? You need to shed these extra kilos as soon as possible. Drink green tea, join a gym, starve yourself to death but get slim okay? No one likes a fat woman. Haven’t you seen my daughter? Couldn’t make it to a high school but she’s so fit Masha’llah and can cook a “gol roti” too. Can you make a gol roti?

151p1-2

Hey Shumaila! Oh my poor little thing! What happened to you? It looks like you’re from Somalia. Why don’t you take care of your diet? Eat “desi ghee k parathey” and take a full cream banana milkshake on empty stomach every day. You’re so terribly thin and you are so weak. No one likes a skeleton. For heaven’s sake! Put on some mass woman.

jlhlr.jpg

Farzana! Hey you! Come here. You’re ——‘s daughter na? Why’re you wearing a sleeveless? Do you have any honor? If not for yours at least learn to do some decent dressing for your family’s sake. Stop exposing your body! Have some sharam, some haya.

Qt3EU5C.png

Oh come on Shumaila! Why’re you always dressed up like a “daras wali baji”. You’re just 26; you’ve your whole life ahead. Stop wearing this ‘burqa’ all the time. It’s 2016, no one will pay attention to a ninja lady.

03-7.gif

Hey dear Farzana! Why’ve you come so simple to the wedding? At least you should wear some makeup and do your hair.

33996066

Oh God! What has gotten into you Shumaila? It’s just a birthday party and not your waleema. Stop wearing red lipstick; this color is only for married women. Ok?

aDHfQI9H.png

Hey Farzana dear! My son told me that you’re always shy and you don’t even talk to him. Come on we’re family friends and you know you should blend in. I don’t like that you feel left out. You never said so but I know.

05-8.gif

 

Hey Shumaila! Who was the guy you were talking to in your university? Listen, these boys are all bad and you cannot trust them at all. There’s no such thing as ‘just friends’ or ‘class business.’ Stay away from them.

Qt3EU5C-1.png

Hey Farzana my child! Why’re you always on mute? Speak up. I’ve never seen you doing anything for yourself. Life’s too short; you’ll get married and then you won’t have any time for yourself.

07-3.gif

OMG Shumaila! Would you just listen to yourself? Do you want to go to Naraan Kaghaan for a week on a university trip? You know you can’t go. Your brothers won’t approve of it. Neighbors would gossip. I’m sorry but you can’t go.

06-5.gif

These are the things every Pakistani woman has to hear every day. People around us telling us what to do, how to dress, what to wear, what to eat, how to look, how to live, what to speak,…… and the list never ends. And it’s never enough. Even when they do everything they’re told, the ultimate response they get is: “You’ve boiled the egg that was supposed to be fried and fried the one that was supposed to be boiled.”

7.gifDear beautiful women! I guess we’ve all have heard the story of a man who tried to please everybody. That’s exactly what’s going to happen here. While trying to be something you’re not, to please the society, you’re going to end up hurting yourselves.

Why is it so hard for people to see and accept us for who we are? Why everyone wants to see us be perfect? How can they even expect is to be perfect when they all have different standards of perfection? Why can a professional degree never beat a gol roti? Why an educated woman with great character is overlooked because of her dark complexion? Are you it’s them who need to changing themselves or it’s you who need to change their sick standards of perfection.

All what a woman wants is to be recognized and appreciated for who she is. All she wants is to be trusted. To be given a choice to eat what she wants, dress the way she likes, study what she loves and be what she’s comfortable being and to be respected for the choices she has made for herself. All she wants is to be heard and to be accepted. Is that too much to ask?

0519dad3510a084217685e208319ba65235b4b-wm.jpg

PAKISTANI WOMEN SHATTER STEREOTYPES, CLAP BACK AT SIRAJ-UL-HAQ

Siraj-ul-Haq, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami has denounced the bill passed on Thursday in the National Assembly that plugged the loophole in cases regarding honor killings. This bill was to prevent those criminals, who murdered women to reclaim honor, from escaping conviction who used to be pardoned off by the survivors of the victim.

Siraj-ul-Haq branded the law un-Islamic and emphasized that any law against the teachings of Islam was synonymous to terrorism. He also claimed that this law has challenged the constitutional authority of Council for Islamic Ideology (which, by far, best described is a well privileged dirty old men’s club in Pakistan). He supported his argument by saying that the law did not resonate with God’s words by seizing any opportunity to reconcile.

Siraj-ul-Haq and his Jamat-e-Islami’s misogynistic ideology enforces the stereotype that Pakistani women are weak, oppressed, and powerless. That’s exactly why women are taking to Twitter to fight prejudice:

and last but not the least,