Somewhere in Sahiwal when a woman would now jog at the Ladies and Children Park in Farid Town it would be an act of revolt and bravery. It would be this woman vs. patriarchy, vs. subjugation and vs. the culture of associating women claiming public space with disgust. Several women frequenting the park independently have been stabbed in the past few months by unidentified men using a sharp metal weapon. The region is cast over by champions of a certain morality that can only be compared to the era of pre-Islam when girl-children were buried alive.
It isn’t just the lack of utilitarianism of the public space that is worrying, it is the fact that women never really had much freedom to begin with. Getting groceries, visiting a neighbour or taking a stroll does not need to be a political act for a woman especially in a country that aims to not push the majority of its people below the poverty line.
Somewhere in the past when this region was sold over to men unilaterally, it was assumed that public space would only become a passage for women, not a place they could legitimately claim as their own. This is perhaps why a woman in black pants and a white collared shirt smoking a cigarette at a busy Chowk in Sahiwal would sound like someone drew a target on a boar. It is not hers for the claiming as things stand now and what looks like for many eons to come.
As long as men in Pakistani society refuse to consider women as full partners, men will only identify them with the private sphere. Anything otherwise will be war. In such a scenario, war on women takes many forms including sexual harassment and stabbing is just its extreme and logical conclusion.
In a legal vacuum like in Pakistan this crime thrives and ultimately achieves its end – instils fear, loathing and self-hate in women, communicating to them that their bodies are subjects only of control, vitriol or violence. Feelings of deletion and depersonalization understandably occur in girls and women. They not only end up hiding their femininity and sensuality but also eventually rejecting it.
This violence to collective psychology of women is jarring. It is easier to couch next to the hearth to bake bread and nurse bruises. All such attacks on women publically tell them in not many words that this is where their real place is – cloaked and invisible.
They belong as much as any man in the shops behind the counters, the study desks at schools, and the work desks at small businesses, at the vegetable stalls haggling or behind the wheel shifting gears. However, this is dangerous (for men) because it means power will need to be shared and the smarter and more capable ones will win.
The continuous effort to dominate women by destabilizing them reeks of a deeper conspiracy – one where it serves everyone to not identify attackers and keep them from being tried. Thank you Punjab Police for not finding any suspects or perpetrators. Vulnerability of women supports the construct where men call the shots. All. Fair competition in the open obviously hurts those with the power now.
In this world, the only time women step out of the house is with a man. So she walks around like an apostrophe that ties her to an object that owns her, so no one can go leak on this hydrant. As one can imagine, no one can truly make any revolutionary progress in such a smothering environment, not only are the women handicapped, it’s also the men that lose their crutch.
The country’s law enforcement agencies need to be equipped with the right priorities first of all. Ones that don’t actually work to help the stabber. There have to be serious deterrents for attackers, swifter action, not just a fake inquiry and some dusty reports. Heads need to roll so the people responsible for allowing these serial stabbings are put in places where count beans and more competent police staff is brought in their place.
To cut this at the roots, we need less Punjabi male psyche and more human male psyche, and looks like now they are completely and totally mutually exclusive.