“The country’s leadership has set the tone.”
As if the incident when a woman in a stopped car by the motorway was attacked in front of her children wasn’t horrific enough, the behaviour of the Lahore Police chief, CCPO Umar Sheikh, and his remarks about the incident were even more horrific — so shockingly medieval and misogynistic were these.
Is there anything one can say about the remarks of this police ‘officer’? Unfortunately, what one must say is that his remarks are not shocking to a large section of Pakistani society. And by this, I mean that his remarks reflect the mindset of not just a certain class but the thinking of a great many people who have a vested interest in keeping women dependent and sexually subjugated in society.
The idea that a woman must have a male ‘guardian’ persists because it is preached and disseminated with impunity. Women are killed by their male relatives simply for behaving as independent beings and exercising independent choices. And these men get away with murder. If there is a natural disaster like an earthquake or flooding, women’s ‘shameless’ behaviour is blamed. If a woman is raped, she is to blame rather than her rapists.
“The country’s leadership, notably the present government, is comprised of misogynists. Imran Khan may have had a westernised upbringing, studied at Oxford, but his public statements about women have all been regressive.”
This primitive notion of a woman being a symbol of family honour and a slave to patriarchy is promoted openly in Pakistan. We have seen similar incidents (most notably the horrific Delhi bus rape and murder) in India, so let’s just say this is a chauvinist South Asian concept tinged with convenient references to your religion of choice. It has been almost four decades since the repressive Zia era and the brave resistance by the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) with so many other movements for social justice and democracy. Yet today you have the police chief of the main city of the majority province openly victim-blaming in the most misogynistic way, and you have the prime minister — a leader who promised change and progress and social justice – not even bothering to condemn the remarks or order the sacking of this offensive (and very un) civil servant.
And therein lies the main problem: the country’s leadership, notably the present government, is comprised of misogynists. Imran Khan may have had a westernised upbringing, studied at Oxford, but his public statements about women have all been regressive. His government has not put gender equality or women issues on their list of priorities and it rarely talks about misogyny. The PM is surrounded by people who, like the Lahore police chief, are both habitually rude and habitually chauvinistic. And they get away with it. The PM himself is extremely rude and offensive when speaking about opposition politicians so, in a way, he has set the tone for the present. No surprise then if he were soon to express the Musharaffian view that ‘rape cases are the fault of women and journalists, and are a conspiracy to get visas by defaming Pakistan’…
“What exactly is PTI’s concept of justice? And what steps have they taken to implement a system based on this concept? Perhaps this incident might be a good time to reflect on this.”
Will he sack the ‘officer’ making the remarks? Probably not, because for some reason this ‘officer’ is well ensconced in the Punjab capital. And so he seems to have some sort of mysterious immunity and can get away with saying stupid things like women should not go out on their own, support patriarchal repression and just continue with his victim-blaming and misogyny.
Lots of issues here: a misogynist society, power structures that fear female emancipation, religious regressivism that preaches the evils of the ‘loose woman’ or ‘temptress’ — and a government that doesn’t seem to be at all interested in issues of equality and justice or law and order. The PM issuing a statement condemning the incident is not enough because that is just lip service. What is needed now is that action is taken and lessons are learnt. And perhaps it might also be nice to have a minister for human rights who is actually concerned about the rights of the citizens of Pakistan instead of just making irrelevant statements about human rights violations in distant lands….
Imran Khan’s party calls itself a justice movement. What exactly is PTI’s concept of justice? And what steps have they taken to implement a system based on this concept? Perhaps this incident might be a good time to reflect on this.