Activists Aurat (woman) March in a rally to mark International women’s day in Lahore on March 8, 2020. Photo AFP
This article originally appeared on Vice India
On the evening of 27 June, Tehreem was absently flipping through the history of Instagram in his home in Lahore, Pakistan, when she came across a message that made her pause. A former student at the elite school for girls called the Lahore grammar school (LGS) shared anonymous account of sexual harassment from the teacher who sent her a clear message when he was her teacher.
“I searched my phone and found screenshots of the messages he sent me four years ago and decided to publish them. My friends warned me against it, but I decided that was silent for too long,” Tehreem, 21—who did not name, told Vice news.
She didn’t expect what happened next. A huge number of people, from activists to celebrities, started to share and comment on her post. Graduates of this same school were also placing their accounts sexual harassment and violence.
Women, all in their 20 argue that the male teachers at school made inappropriate advances and sent them explicit text messages. There were also two teachers accused of sexual relations with students who were minors at the time. Former students claimed that they had made several complaints to the school administration, but fell silent, ashamed and condemned for what happened.
In particular, the names of the four men was repeated until the school administration was forced to respond. The school released an official statement and dismissed the four men, then dismissed the three women administrators who had been accused of ignoring complaints.
Former LGS student Sarah*, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of negative reactions from his family, told Vice news that some of the staff of the LCC was notorious for inappropriate behavior. “Sexual harassment was known. Through the day the incident occurred. Girls standing around in circles talking about it. Often there were tears. But every time someone complained, the Director and the coordinator accused the girl to wear revealing clothes and draw attention,” she said.
“I fell into a deep depression and left school before the end of my level”, said Tehreem their experience. “When you are a woman, you won’t experience something like that once. I was molested as a child, and to some extent, blamed himself. Slut-shame brought him back.”
In the first days after Tehreem first posted her screenshots, Pakistani social media flooded with similar accounts sexual harassment and violence at various schools and universities, along with the bullying and humiliation. Around the same time at the end of June, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) has experienced #Metoo moment when students began to share accounts of sexual harassment and assault on a private Facebook group open to students and graduates.
In 2017, when I too the movement began in the West, public debate in Pakistan has remained largely unchanged. Instead, the movement is reversed gradually over the past three years.
In the beginning of 2018, Pakistan saw its first real reckoning when several women have accused the General Director of the popular music website sexual harassment. In the same week, the singer Meesha Shafi is allegedly the singer Ali Zafar subjected her to sexual harassment. A handful isolated charges but then, the movement lacked the critical mass it has accumulated abroad.
The researcher standing in the floor of said claimed that Pakistan #of Metoo looked different because of the strict codes of gender segregation country. “When there can be no public recognition of the relationship between a man and a woman, whether professional or personal, is any abuse that happens in these relations cannot be told publicly,” she said.
The researcher Shmyla digital rights Khan said Pakistan Metoo #was reserved and every moment was followed by a long silence. The reasons are both legal and social. “The use of laws on defamation of the victims of the silence of women fearful. Each #of Metoo charges in Pakistan was followed by a libel suit or attempt at one.”
Farieha Aziz, who works for digital rights in Pakistan, said that the use of defamation laws in response to #of Metoo accusations were widespread. There were cases when the country’s Federal Agency of journalistic investigations (FIA) has caused those who made accusations, but also those who spoke in support. In August 2019, FIA called model Iffat Omar and singer Ali Gul PIR, along with 15 others, for tweets in support of Meesha Shafi in her charge against Ali Zafar.
Although Pakistan until 2020 I, too, the movement continues to gain momentum online, Aziz worries remains largely disengaged with the law, meaning that legal reforms needed to create a more favorable legal environment do not exist. “The legal route difficult. Cases may last for months, even years, and online support rarely translates into Autonomous moral and material support,” she said. Shmyla Khan added that the Pakistani courts do not have enough understanding of the consent and therefore victims.
Pakistani media insensitive and sensation coverage of sexual harassment and assault also contributes to the creation of conditions in which women are hesitant to come forward.
When Meesha Shafi first came forward with her story, she was criticized and embarrassing in both social and mainstream media. “In the United States, the first wave of #of Metoo charges supported quality investigative journalism. In Pakistan this system is missing and the media coverage tried to discredit the claims Shafi and a very strong plot against her had,” Khan said.
“This is what a Patriarchal society tells a woman, what happens to her, it’s her fault,” rights activist and lawyer Nighat DAAD, who represented the singer Meesha Shafi in the most famous in Pakistan the case of Metoo#, told Vice news.
DAAD said the times are changing. “It started with me too [movement in 2017]. Now everywhere in small spaces, women feel like they say, someone will listen,” she said.
Wide support for young women, in the case of LGS have not witnessed in Pakistan in the past. “Only if a woman looks or dresses a certain way, she is worthy of sympathy. As an independent woman, Meesha Shafi, for example, does not fit into the idea of a “good” woman,” said Sayed stand.
“Little girls fit the idea of a media victim. Any woman who does not fit into the stereotypical image of the victim is not believed,” said Khan.
Despite the problems, Farieha Aziz claims that the #of Metoo moments “is necessary because they destroy and push the narrative”.
Young women leading LGS-I movement say they don’t plan to stay. Students and alumni put forward a number of requirements insists on a long-term policy changes at the school, which were mainly taken by the school administration.
Sarah with pride. “Everywhere, the aggressors are afraid. They feel like they made us feel.”
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