It's all your fault!

India and Pakistan are very similar to each other in one glaring way (among others): misogyny is entrenched in the mindsets of the population of both countries. This is obvious not only in the number of violent acts against women but also in the way efforts are made to keep these acts under the rug.

This week it was India, which banned the documentary 'India's Daughter' on India's rape culture. I have been told that there were some issues with the documentary itself. However, is that any reason to ban it? The only reason to ban it was because patriarchal and patriotic sensibilities could not allow such inherent issues to be shown to the world.

The reaction of the Indian government is the same as what I would have expected the reaction of the Pakistani government to be in similar circumstances: let's ban discourse on the issue rather than doing something to resolve it.

Furthermore, the general populace of both the countries has very similar mindsets in this case: to stop rape we must make sure our women are told to behave in a certain manner.

The rapist who was interviewed in the documentary voiced the thinking process of a large number of men. And this alone is reason enough for India to have allowed the documentary to be shown. For this was the moment that would lead to the realisation, that in addition to punishment for the crime, general mindsets have to be changed.

In Pakistan too, similar notions are very common. How a woman dresses, what she does, where she goes and who she hangs out with are all usually given as reasons for any harassment that she may suffer. Because you know, she has no business being a human being and doing what she wants. We would rather our women are kept under covers than to make sure that the misogyny we have inculcated in our men is challenged.

Living in Pakistan I have grown up watching this, in schools, at homes, at work places, everywhere. If you are out alone, if you are dressed in an unsanctioned way, if you are hanging out with certain people, then you are responsible for your troubles.

We don't consider our women human beings. They are always someone's daughter, sister, wife or mother. That is their only identity. This is also clear when even well meaning people (read men) who object to any violence against women, give their support, by saying these very words.

This is something that has been allowed to fester in our midst for hundreds of years and it is now time to remove it. Unfortunately, many women have also accepted this and agree that a "good woman/ girl" is responsible for her own virtue.  And this has become more rampant with the Islamisation that is going around currently.

I call this a bag of baloney. We must get out of this nonsense and the way to do this is to start screaming over the patriarchal voices telling us what to do. It must start from the home where girls are told to behave in a certain manner and boys are taught that their honour lies with the safe virtues of the women in their households.

The days of women as chattel are over and it is time for everyone to understand that women are human beings with the same rights as men. Rape is about power and as long as the narrative remains what it is, this manifestation of power is going to exist.

Saima Baig

Saima Baig is a Karachi-based environmental economist, climate change consultant and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter

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