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Ali Zafar, Meesha Shafi and the issue of sexual harassment

The international slogan #Metoo has finally made it’s way to Pakistan. Since last year, this has been causing waves and ripples all across the world. A campaign started to raise awareness of sexual harassment and how men or women in power frequently indulge in it. Many big names in Hollywood have come under scrutiny via this movement. However in Pakistan the person being called out is our resident pop-icon Ali Zafar.

What went down?

Meesha Shafi has recently come out with a set of allegations that imply she was harassed sexually by Ali Zafar. She tweeted this from her account in an effort to shed some light upon our society’s dark secrets. Although the details of the incident were not shared, her interview with Instep helped make some sense. It is safe to say that Meesha claims that there have been several counts she has been harassed by Ali Zafar. The latest taking place last year, in a jam room. Ali zafar however has refuted all of this, and has decided to take the matter to court, asking for a settlement of Rs.100m.

The Domino Effect

Ever since Meesha Shafi was brave enough to open up, many other women with similiar stories about Ali Zafar have stepped up. They’ve taken to twitter to express their sides of the story and let the world know. And although one is innocent until proven guilty, these claims of sexual harassment shouldn’t be taken lightly. The entire world can be seen to reform it’s structure, in regards to workplace ethics, based on this movement. However only time will tell if Pakistan follows suit.

Sexual Harassment and our society

What Meesha Shafi has faced since this fiasco can be categorized as nothing short of an atrocity. Slut-Shaming, online harassment, hypocritical statement, misgynistic keyboard warriors, and much more. Pretty much everyone, including our self righteous TV Channels have welcomed her with back lash. Rather than maintaining a neutral side, they’ve attacked Meesha on the basis of things or issues that are at most meager. And while she’s being forced in a corner, Ali Zafar is being protected by the very same people who claim they want Pakistan to change. Our patriarchal society has once again made its stance clear. Even celebrities such as Hamza Ali Abbasi have tweeted their misogynistic and outdated views, laced with double-standards.

What we fail to understand is that our courts lack the provisons or manner to tackle this matter effectively. Up until recently it was compulsory for a rape victim to produce four witnesses to lay strength onto their claim. So how can one expect to be offered relief in a system, where countless loopholes would be misused. And if Ali Zafar really wanted to make a difference to support his view that this was merely a witch hunt. He could have borrowed a page from Taylor Swift’s book, when she sued her harasser just for $1, to make a point.

A Reality

What we a human beings need to do is acknowledge the reality that is sexual harassment. Men and women are subjected to this daily in one way or another. Has Zainab and Afifa’s cases really taught us nothing? It doesn’t matter if one is wearing provocative clothing. Acts such and rape and sexual harassment should be condemned, not the victims. Before engaging anyone, we should ask ourselves, would we like it if someone treated us similarly? While claims of politicians or fanatics are paid heed to and highlighted unanimously, the cries of a victim are being muffled and brought down.