The #MeToo movement seems to have imploded in India since Tanushree Datta came forward with allegations against Nana Patekar. Since then, the movement has reminded the Pakistani audience the importance of speaking up against sexual harassment with Meesha Shafi’s case against Ali Zafar being discussed frequently. Amongst others, social media star Junaid Akram and Abdus Sattar Edhi’s son Faisal Edhi have recently been condemned as well.
With these two latest allegations, people are suggesting that Pakistan is finally having its #MeToo moment. However, this movement started well before this weeks fresh claims.
Ayesha Gulalai, a Pakistani parliamentarian claimed she was harassed at the hands of Prime Minister Imran Khan. She was supported by then Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi who backed her and the matter was investigated as well. In the history of Pakistan, this was the first time someone political had come forward with such allegations. As a result of this, Gulalai faced intense backlash over the internet. She was abused as a politician and her mental state was also put into question. Considering PM Khan’s victory, she was also called an opportunist.
Chinoy took to Twitter to talk about her sister experience with a renowned doctor. Her accusations led to an online debate forcing people to question what even qualifies as harassment. Resultantly, Obaid was forced to take to Twitter and justify and explain her claims, hampering the movement once more.
Zainab was not only brutally raped but later murdered and dumped into a pile of trash. This particular incident left the entire nation shook to the very core and to perhaps question for the first time, how safe girls and women are in the country within their own communities and homes. As a result of this renowned Pakistani actress, Nadia Jamil came forward with her narrative, telling the world how she was raped as a child and the extent of the trauma that followed.
This implosion of claims is what gave the pace to the #MeToo movement, giving it a relevance that was unseen before. This was the first time that the movement gained such momentum in Pakistan.
The women, previously mentioned, enabled others to come forward in one way or another and on April 11, a woman shared her story of sexual harassment on Twitter. The allegations were against the CEO of Patari, Khalid Bajwa. She posted screenshots of the conversation. Soon after other women came forward against the same man, sharing similar stories. This movement was powerful enough to force Bajwa to step down from his role.
The same month, singer, actress, judge and model Meesha Shafi took to her social media profiles and accused Pakistani actor and self-proclaimed rock star Ali Zafar of sexual harassment on “several” occasions. The entire nation was soon after divided into team Meesha and team Ali as the matter went into courts and has since backfired on Meesha in many ways.
Faisal Edhi, the son of renowned and globally respected philanthropist and humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi, Faisal has been accused of sexual misconduct. Urooj Zia took to Twitter claiming that at age 23 Faisal Edhi offered to drop her home when she arrived at the NGO to donate/receive funds. Knowing he was Edhi’s son, Urooj took him on his offer and also provided him her number to further discuss her contributions. She claims that this was followed by late night phone calls and text messages that made her uncomfortable.
Merely days ago, social media comedian and socialist Junaid Akram has been accused of sexual misconduct as well. TV host Rabia Anum began the discussion and several girls have followed, forcing Akram to take the legal route. Akram has also denied these allegations on social media.
Twitter has been proven to be quite a precarious platform for women to come forward with their stories. While support and awareness are surely increasing, the alleged victims are almost always attacked by trolls or misogynists demanding them to shut up. Whether it is downright sexual abuse or groping, whether it is the trauma of being assaulted or the denial of it, women need to be provided with an environment that allows them to come forward with their narratives in hopes of a solution towards a safer society.
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*Feature Image Source: Daily Times*