While global campaigns against sexual harassment such as #MeToo and #TimesUp are a new phenomenon, sexual harassment itself certainly isn’t.
I can say with utmost conviction that I do not know a single woman who has not been at the receiving end of some level of sexual misconduct. The cases that I know of range from lewd verbal remarks to the most heinous form of sexual violence – rape.
And while as women we were always alive to the disturbing reality of sexual harassment, it is only now that men are beginning to wake up to its existence.
Men are Finally Aware Because Women Broke Their Silence…
As a woman, I find the oblivion of men – and the grand awakening thereafter – both endearing and enraging. But that’s a discussion for another day. Today, I just want to be happy, because men, however late it might have been, have finally begun to realize the magnitude of the problem and how they have knowingly – and as some claim, unknowingly – contributed to it.
However, this sense of shame-laced realization would never have been possible for men had women not decided to break away from their own shame and speak-up.
#MeToo and Pakistan
When the #MeToo movement first made itself known, I genuinely doubted that save a handful of Pakistani women who had put out tweets and updated Facebook statuses, the majority would have the courage to speak their minds let alone bring powerful men down. And for a while it held true.
However, almost a year and a half after the inception of the #MeToo global movement, in April this year, Pakistan found the revolution had finally reached its doorstep.
It started with one woman stepping out against Patari CEO, Khalid Bajwa ensuring a swift fall from grace for the sexual offender.
This was quickly followed by the country’s biggest #MeToo moment when rock star, Meesha Shafi accused fellow rocker, Ali Zafar of sexual harassment.
And while we remain unsure whether Meesha will ever receive justice, we do know that her speaking out has shifted the balance in favour of the harassed. More than anything else, the case of Sadat Bashir is a testimony of this fact.
Saba Ali and the Case of Sadat Bashir
A pedophile who had been molesting (mostly) minor girls during examinations for over a decade had probably never thought that he would ever be caught and shunned by so many, so loudly.
However, the fact that a young girl – despite being asked to remain silent by her female teachers – decided to put her ordeal out there proves that Pakistan is finally raising its daughters right!
Saba Ali, not merely spoke up against the man who could potentially ruin her grades but did so on a platform that informed the world about her ordeal. She spoke-up throwing the conventional “caution” to the winds and stood-up for her own integrity and dignity when her teachers and school administration failed her.
Saba Ali is how every Pakistani daughter should be raised – fiercely brave, aware of her rights and bodily integrity and ready to defend them both!
True, Saba is empowered partly because she has been raised in an urban center and empowerment remains a far-fetched dream for hundreds of thousands of Pakistani girls in many parts of the country.
However, only a few years ago for a mere child – and that too a girl – to share her experience of sexual harassment on a public forum and calling out the harasser against all odds would have been unthinkable even for someone raised in an urban center.
The fact that this is finally happening gives me immense hope for the future of girls in my country. It makes me believe that our daughters will not have to silently put up with the culture of sexual intimidation that we grew up experiencing; it makes me believe that perhaps, we are finally raising our daughters right!