A harrowing video recently went viral on social media in which a man, Usman Mirza, was seen harassing and assaulting a young couple. He had a few male accomplices with him, and he was also armed. Mirza beat up the couple, stripped them, and subjected them to sexual assault. Pakistani women on social media came out in support of the young couple and also voiced how unsafe and insecure they feel in a society full of misogyny and violence.
Following an uproar on social media, the police arrested Usman Mirza and his accomplices. The police also reached out to the couple to record their statement. According to media reports, the couple recorded their statements separately under Section 161 of the Criminal Code. The incident took place last year in November and the couple was blackmailed by the culprit; they ended up paying more than a million rupees to Mirza. This was clearly not an isolated incident as more videos have been found from the mobile phones of the arrested men. It shows that this gang of criminals has been indulging in such nefarious activities for quite some time now.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken notice of the case. The Islamabad police chief briefed PM Khan on the case yesterday. Thankfully, the police have so far been extremely responsible and have not indulged in any victim-blaming, unlike the Motorway gang rape case where CCPO Lahore’s comments about the rape survivor were atrocious, to say the least. SSP (Investigations) Atta-ur-Rehman appeared on a few TV talk shows and actually talked about why such incidents are not reported by victims and survivors due to social taboos. Unfortunately, we still have people in our society who think the victims are somehow at fault instead of holding the culprits solely responsible for their crime. Just last month, PM Khan made a controversial statement in an interview where he said that if women wear very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men unless they are robots. And today, in a now-deleted tweet, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Hina Butt said that while beasts Usman Mirza should be condemned but is it not necessary that we teach our boys and girls why they become targets of such beasts. “Our youth should also introspect their own behaviour.”
One wonders why the young couple should introspect when they were the victims and not the perpetrators of a despicable crime. In fact, those who are busy blaming and shaming innocent victims should be introspecting instead. Such attitudes do not just make victims and survivors more insecure but are extremely triggering for those who have faced sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Why is it that ‘honour’ is always linked to a woman in our society? Why is it that instead of empowering women, even empowered women end up blaming the victims of abuse? Why is it that everything depends on how a woman was dressed or where she was or who she was with or at what time she went out? Why? We need to uproot this deeply embedded misogyny from our minds. We need to make our women feel secure. We need to make our laws stronger and implement them so that these survivors have trust in the justice system and also in our society so that they do report such harrowing incidents instead of staying quiet due to expected backlash. When we start pointing fingers at the victim, we end up empowering the criminals, the perpetrators of violent crimes. Stop this trend. Enough is enough.