Sunday, September 16, 2012

Society backlash against working women

I returned to Pakistan after a two year gap and  noticed a lot more women working in different sectors. From customer service, waitresses, to corporate sector and even taxi drivers. Moreover, in Karachi there appear to be a lot more women drivers comparatively. If not mistaken, every fifth car seems to be driven by a woman in certain areas of the city. Also, despite the increase in religiosity where one observes a lot of 'abayas' and 'burkas', the number of women on the streets is constantly increasing. Women are also showing up more at protests, even if clad in layers of cloth.

However, there is a backlash to this surge in numbers of working women, or at least women who are becoming more active members of the society. According to a report in Express Tribune, the number of crimes against women have increased by 31 percent over the past two years. Although the report did not ascertain if this increase was due to occurrence of more crimes or an enhanced reportage in certain parts of the country, or both. It appears to be directly proportional to the rising number of working women. The more women come out of homes, the more society is reacting and trying to resist this change.

There is not only an increase in conventional crimes against women, but even online forums and social media is full of 'male bullies' who give rape threats, or resort to character assassination when some women dare to take a stand. Recently several such incidents have taken place on twitter. One such victim of online harassment is Marvi Sirmed, who was being threatened and defamed via fake accounts on twitter. A TV host Sana Bucha (one of the few journalists who condemned Salman Taseer's murder) was also referred to as a 'bitch', 'slut' etc for an episode of 'Laikin' by supporters of PTI. Several other women, including myself have faced such online persecution, at the hands of even so-called liberal, secular and atheist men. Let's not even get into offline persecution. From being touched inappropriately, to cat calls and obscene gestures. 

All in all, it seems men in Pakistan are having a really tough time getting used to the idea of sharing the public sphere with women.

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