Meesha Shafi opened the #metoo floodgates in Pakistan and though the movement has been slow and fraught with opposition and trepidation, it has reached the land of the pure.
Last month the students of LUMS showed how important solidarity is and exposed the vile people running the misogynistic Facebook page ‘Dankpana at LUMS’. I don’t know if those students were punished or not, my experience and my cynicism tells me they were given mild warnings and the story died on social media.
A wise woman once said ‘we cannot be what we cannot see’ and seeing women standing up and standing together emboldens others in that situation. So here we are, just a month later with yet another one of Pakistan’s premier institutions caught in a sexual harassment scandal.
Out of 8000 candidates only 300 pass their entrance exam. Of that only 100 pass their interviews. The cost of a year’s tuition is 1.4 million rupees. The cost of a medical degree from here can come to a whopping 6 million rupees. By every definition of the word it is an elite institution and yet here we are.
Normally these messages are prefaced with fun news like old friends getting married, having children or finding new jobs. This time the tone was far more somber. A male student of the class of 2019 has allegedly been caught red handed filming women in the bathroom without their consent. According to information I received, his phone also had videos dating back to at least 3 years, videos of women taken without consent, in showers and bathrooms, in hostel rooms and even inside their homes where he had been invited as a guest.
If at this moment you are wondering why those women did not report him, well for one, I’d like to point towards the way Meesha Shafi has been dealt with. How Ali Zafar has become a male hero, a man’s man. He high fives Mubashir Luqman in a moment of male solidarity as they laugh at the plight of women in Pakistan.
I don’t know if he was emboldened by friends condoning his actions, I don’t know if the faculty was aware or not. All I know is that there is a hearing ongoing, and I hope that AKU will value these 20 women and their right to bodily autonomy and privacy and make sure such an awful lecherous person does not get to be a doctor.
Is the fact that our hostels are so strictly divided along gendered lines an issue? Have we created a defacto space where sexually frustrated men are egging each other on, much like 4chan and subreddits like Blackpill and braincels encourage conservative men in the western world to attack women, are our male hostels doing the same?
Currently there is a DC hearing pending for this incident. Efforts have been made by the AKU faculty to put into place a robust system whereby female students can report such incidents and not fear backlash and fear. These systems are not yet operational but it is definitely a step in the right direction. This incident however must spark severe introspection on all of our parts, especially male colleagues.
A few months back an old friend of mine shared a status that was written by a woman, that stated that women should not work. That women were made to have children and any woman who chooses to work instead of taking care of her child is making a bad choice. A year back another AKU alumni who I know posted an article that argued for the decriminalisation of rape as ‘it’s a natural consequence of men’s inherent need for sex’.
They are both in a university where half the students are women, one of the only Pakistani medical schools where almost 100% of the female students go on to continue working and don’t become ‘doctor bahus’ and yet they actively believe that these women should not have the right to self determination. The choice to work or not, to have sex or not, to live or not, should all be made by the men in their lives. The fact that this spectrum is seen as so benign, so non malevolent creates rape culture, which in turn empowers few amongst us who think they can violate the women in their lives and expect to not face any consequences.
As a soon to graduate doctor, he understands consent, and understands harassment. He just does not think women are people and therefore does not think violating their rights is wrong. I hope the AKU faculty does not say boys will be boys. The students that graduate AKU are physicians. They will be privy to private details of so many people’s lives. I hope that all AKU alumni who read this add to the pressure on the administration to not let this go with a rap on the knuckle and a boys will be boys.
A month ago I was shocked and saddened by the misogynistic awful terrible group on Facebook run by Student from LUMS. Today I am utterly gutted to hear of the news from AKU. AKU is more than my college, it’s my home, it’s where I became myself, found my family, and I value every single alum from there who I meet. Therefore I hope AKU takes this seriously.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are of the author alone and do not represent the views or the opinions of ProperGaanda. *The name of the accused has been changed until the verdict of the disciplinary hearing is announced.