Blame the rape victim, but what are you telling men?

We need to shift our focus on to boys
Aug 28, 2021
Art for violence against women

A number of videos have surfaced on the internet in the past few days in which girls or young women were seen being harassed by men. One of the ways in which we react to it is by actually saying it is the woman's fault: victim blaming.

The first incident took place at the Greater Iqbal park where a young woman, who makes videos on TikTok, was groped and assaulted by hundreds of men while she was recording a video on Independence Day. Her clothes were torn, she was tossed up in the air and was beaten and all of this lasted for more than an hour.

motorway rape verdict

While many people who saw the video were still in shock and despair over what happened at Minar-e-Pakistan, another video from the same day emerged on social media showing two young women with a child sitting at the back of a Qinqqi rickshaw. All of a sudden a man jumped onto the rickshaw and forcibly kissed the girl, leaving her traumatised. She was visibly helpless and even tried to jump off the rickshaw but was stopped by the woman sitting beside her.

There is hardly any such case in which the victim is not blamed

The continuous increase in harassment cases is alarming and deeply worrying but what is even more disturbing is the tendency of our society to blame the victim. There is hardly any such case in which the victim is not blamed. There is seldom any harassment or rape case in which the victim’s character is not questioned. The woman who was harassed at Minar-e-Pakistan is being blamed for inviting her fans for a meet and greet and going to such a crowded place and that too on 14 August. Some people are even calling it a planned stunt. Many are of the view that girls who make TikTok videos are not respectable and they deserve such treatment. Some people are busy posting her old pictures and videos and questioning her character. They are doing everything they can to prove she is responsible for what happened to her.

rape cases in pakistan

We all remember the Sialkot motorway rape case and how the then CCPO of Lahore, Umar Sheikh, blamed the victim for being alone and taking a certain choice of route and driving late at night. He told a Senate Committee that the victim didn’t seek her husband’s permission before travelling late at night. The furious senators called him out.

The Noor Mukaddam case is also a prime example of victim blaming. While there was a huge support for Noor and the public wanted the perpetrator to be hanged, some people were finding ways to blame the victim. The poor girl did whatever she could to escape but failed. She was running for her life and even jumped off a balcony to save herself, but unfortunately she could not. She was beheaded.

Photo: SAMAA Digital

People didn’t spare her either even after her death. They blamed her 'liberal' lifestyle for her murder and questioned why she went to Zahir’s house alone? The focus shifted from the brutal murder to Noor’s relationship with her murderer. This moral policing needs to be stopped and no one should be allowed to blame a victim’s character.

People who unambiguously condemn these incidents are in the minority and may always be. These incidents won’t stop until and unless there is a change in the mindset of those who find ways to justify such incidents.

We need to understand that victim is never responsible for being raped or harassed no matter the context; it is always the rapist/harasser who is to be blamed. If we continue blaming the victim directly or indirectly, the culprits will always believe that the victim was asking for it and she deserved what she got.

We need to shift our focus from lecturing women to teaching our boys how they are supposed to behave.

We have always been teaching women what to wear and what not to wear, where to go and where not to go, when to go and when not to go but we hardly ever taught men how to behave themselves. We have often seen clerics giving sermons about how a woman should dress and how their inappropriate dressing is spreading evil in society and even causing earthquakes. But how often have you heard them lecturing men to lower their gaze if they see a woman? How often do you hear them telling men not to disrespect or harass a woman just because she does not wear clothes according to the set codes?

Art for violence against women

We need to shift our focus from lecturing women to teaching our boys how they are supposed to behave.

It is an established fact that the number of harassment/rape cases are far greater than actually reported cases. The reason victims hesitate to come forward and report these cases is because they know they won’t get support from their families and society and instead they will be blamed for what happened to them.

A majority of the times families discourage the victim from reporting because they think it may bring a bad name to them. They grow afraid about what people may think and how difficult it will be to face them. It takes a lion’s heart to come forward and fight your case knowing fully you will be called names, blamed and your character will be questioned. So if someone does come forward, support her and don’t make her regret her decision.

We need to focus how such incidents can be reduced. It is understandable that people want severe punishment for those involved in such crimes but certainty and swiftness of punishment is the most important thing. We need to ensure that no one ever gets away with such crimes. The government needs to make women's safety a priority and do whatever reforms are required to ensure certainty and swiftness of punishment.

The writer is a contributor.


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