Our nation has a problem and a vile one at that. We have always had this problem but only those directly affected by it have realized the gravity of it while others have disregarded it as hearsay or propaganda by feminists. Now it has become the raging elephant in the room that can neither be silenced nor be tamed; the reality in its ugliest form has presented itself and no amount of ignorance, search for loopholes or victim blaming can erase it. The events of the past few days have brought us at such a cross roads that no one can afford to deny the presence of this societal sickness; they would be standing at the perpetrators’ side if they do so.
I will not share the graphic details of the incident that the whole nation is well aware of. The incident served as a slap in the face of all those who kept reiterating that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a safe haven for women to live in. Maybe that was our wishful thinking. That is what we want to think; to live with a false sense of security by constructing a false reality. Now, with this incident, that false reality is shattered and we are standing face-to-face with our worst fears combined. This is the point where one thinks the officials would work towards bettering the society and punishing the culprits. However, quite to the contrary, they resorted to victim blaming and our ears were oh so blessed to hear the same words again; questioning the hour she went out on, the route she took and even her mindset of being in France and therefore safe. My question is, why is a secular country such as France more secure for women than the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that was supposed to follow the footsteps of Riasat e Madina?
The questions asked must be replaced with Why was the motorway not secure? Why was the rapist not afraid of being caught? Where did the rapists get the weapons from? How can she be given justice? We need to discuss if rape is the problem here or the result of a problem so deep-rooted in our society that we can’t even pinpoint it anymore. We don’t even need to look deep to realize that a male-dominated judicial system, obliviousness to women’s issues, the notion of ‘boys will be boys’, victim blaming, the association of honor with women and the ingrained misogyny in the society where men do not miss a chance to assert their power over women are all the evils leading to these crimes. And this is just me scraping the surface of the mammoth of a sickness that our society has. It has grown over the years and has become as ugly as ever. This sickness has culminated in rape, catcalling, domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Therefore, we can’t look at the motorway incident in isolation; the number of incidents reported during just the past few days alone are beyond horrifying and these are only the ones that got media attention. God knows how many got hushed down for the sake of honor or out of fear of influential perpetrators.
The solution to the incidence of rape is not public hanging of one rapist but a systemic change in the society which can be brought about through a series of steps taken by the policymakers in consolidation with the common people. First,there needs to be adequate representation of women in executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government so that laws are formulated through a gendered lens, loopholes can be removed from existing laws and they are thereby efficiently implemented. Second, we need to have an open discourse on sexual abuse and need to teach children in schools about consent alongside good and bad touch. Third, women need to be made aware of their rights and crimes like sexual abuse and rape must be dissociated from the victim or survivor’s honor. Four, a helpline must be developed to report such crimes and the government must ensure provision of therapy to the survivors until they are able to process the trauma. Five, the importance of DNA evidence in such cases must not be ignored and staff must be hired to handle it properly in the police force. Six, the primary investigators in cases must be specifically trained in how they should deal with a rape case, how the survivor should be investigated without incurring further damage to their mental health. Seven, a nation-wide gender sensitization campaign must be conducted so that the officials dealing with crimes involving gender minorities are well-equipped to lead the investigation. Eight, self-defense classes must be subsidized and accessible for all, they could be introduced to the curriculum in middle till high school level as part of extra-curricular activities.
If even some of these changes are implemented, we would be seeing the making of a more gender-equal society. From a society where a separate word for rape doesn’t exist to one where it is openly talked about, condemned and the perpetrators of such a crime rightfully punished. The only purpose a public hanging would serve is a relief to the burning vengeance of people which is a result of laws not being implemented. Simply changing the severity of punishment in a handful of infamous incidents is unlikely to deter others from occurring, as most cases either languish in the courts or are dismissed due to lack of evidence.Therefore, the only viable and sustainable solution is systemic change in the fabric of the society and governance that may result in a more gender-equal nation.