In June my family decided to go on a trip to the Northern areas. Since most of the places were booked, we thought why not go to Swat? So that’s exactly what we did. I’m not going to get into the details of what we did and where we went once we arrived in Swat but suffice it to say we had fun. When you’re with your family, with the people you love and that too in a beautiful place everything seems amazing. The thing with Swat is that every time the name Swat comes up one thinks of the glorious mountains, the fresh air, turquoise blue water of the Kalam River and the marvelous gardens that bear the juiciest fruits.
The fact that we were given wrong directions annoyed me but later on I realized that this misdirection took us deeper into the cities and showed me the part of Swat not many get to see. The excruciatingly longs hours spent stuck in traffic, under the scorching heat of the blazing sun gave me time to reflect upon my surroundings. I saw the aftermath of the Taliban occupation of Swat.
After almost every five minutes there was a police check post. The police looked like it could care less about an unregistered vehicle; maintain law and order and a security check. Only the army seemed to actually care. Now, this is common knowledge that people drive unregistered vehicles in Swat but seriously though, they don’t even try to hide it. The number plates are a joke! Their level of chill is such that they actually say the name of the owner. If I could, I would insert a laughter emoji here.
Now I come to the point where my trip went downhill. Pathans are respectable, right? That’s what I’ve been told and what I’ve seen myself. It’s not about a tribe, creed, ethnicity etc. that make someone disrespectful, it’s the person himself. No matter which class, ethnicity or creed they belong; men of our society have a complex of eve-teasing to the extent that it’s a sport for them. Putting somebody ill at ease could only be the fantasy of a perverted soul. During my stay in Swat I was scrutinized by the men there. I was cat-called, gawked at to the extent that I felt harassed, embarrassed and insecure, like it was my fault because I belong to the opposite gender. To say that my brothers were angry would be an understatement. They had to be physically restrained. This happened everywhere I went, not just me but my mother and sister as well. I must ask here, you hide the women in your family, keep them from going out in public and prevent them from gaining education. Yet you have the audacity to pass judgment and check out women and girls who can pass as your daughters. I hardly saw a woman while I was there. It isn’t like these things don’t happen in the rest of Pakistan or the world for that matter, it’s the hypocrisy, the false facade of dignity and honor in the name of which you kill that infuriates me. In the end women are blamed because apparently they were “asking for it”. I ask you who gave you the right to decide that. Never in my life have I dressed indecent. No one cares about a dupatta when they harass you; they just use it as an excuse to justify their actions. If that is not the case then was mine invisible? I have never worn an abaya and I will not change myself for the sake of these perverts, not that an abaya would have made a difference. The only thing that mattered was my gender. We talk about empowering women but in order to empower women, to bring a societal change we need to first change the way we think.
Lastly my question from these men who preach about women staying at home to avoid gawking or cat-called is that “Are we not human beings enough to enjoy few moments of peace with nature away from the household clamor? Does it not sound like being jailed for life for no reason at all? Who gave you the permit to harass women just because you know your women are “SAFE” confined in houses? Or is it that you have a separate place especially designed for women where they can enjoy themselves? Kindly elaborate!