A patriarchal system, so deeply rooted and enforced through the world’s religious, school and family systems, is what enables men in our society to act the way they do. Since birth, sons are encouraged to show masculinity in all its glory through emotions such as anger and rage in order for them to be part of the solid ‘bro code’ subculture. Expressing emotions such as grief or being kind and soft are considered to be feminine traits reserved only for women while the patriarchy has taught us that women are the inferior sex. This disconnection from all human emotions and the pressure to achieve this unattainable standard of a specific kind of masculinity is what produces angry men.
To state the obvious, Pakistani culture is painted with extreme patriarchy and when privilege is an add-on to that, the recipe for exploitation and misuse of power is basically complete. Textbook examples of how deadly (literally) this system can be are seen in the recent brutal murders of women. Such incidents are not rare or surprising considering hundreds of women are assaulted, harassed, acid burned or honour killed or simply killed for various different reasons in Pakistan every day, but what is disheartening and worrisome about these few particular cases is the reoccurrence of cold-blooded murders committed by the victims’ partners. One may wonder why the state is not acting swiftly to punish the murderers and enforcing legislations that truly are on women’s side in all aspects possible.
Time and time again, rapists and murderers get away with their heinous crimes against women while everyone else sits around to decipher flaws in the characters of the women that were killed to somehow justify what has happened to them. The irresponsible narrative of ‘boys will be boys’ will continue to keep our homes and streets unsafe for women. There is a dire need to erase this concept and the narrative of “boys will be held accountable” needs to be enforced.
The recent murders of women have proved that it is never really about what and how the victim was dressed or who she was with or at what time of the day she was out- Quratulain was murdered by her husband in front of her children. In fact, honour killings are always perpetrated by close family members. When fathers make discriminatory gendered rules for their sons and daughters in order to somehow protect the daughter, this very act teaches boys from a very young age that the world is inherently different for them and for their sisters. The same men, who appoint themselves as the flag bearers of honour, are raping their children. Moreover, there are multiple accounts of fathers and brothers raping their daughters and sisters inside homes for years with the victims do not even have someone to confide in let alone having the option to escape. So, where is it that women can really feel safe? I’m afraid there isn’t really a satisfying answer for that question.
If someone like Zahir Jaffer, a so called educated man from an elite family can shoot and then brutally behead the daughter of a former ambassador, then just imagine the level of helplessness the women belonging to less privileged communities feel. But this is not about the poor versus the rich or the educated versus those that are not. This is simply about male domination and power, a system supported by our culture and protected by the legal system.
There is a feminicide rampant in a country, and it has already claimed the lives of many including Saima, Quratulain and Noor, their lives being reduced to hashtags. The state needs to act fast to address these brutal murders and prevent the loss of more precious lives. Not only that, this toxic culture needs a total revival where women are seen as respectable human beings with agency and not mere objects for moral policing or as people who need to be saved by men.
It is heart wrenching to see the threats, criticism and jokes that surround the annual Aurat March, with many acting like women are just asking for the right to parade about naked, even though the entire object of the march is to bring attention to the oppression of women while demanding that the government provide security through policies and women centric laws. The march, not to mention, also asks for the basic right to occupy public spaces without being raped or killed.
Without a conscious effort by parents, especially mothers, to change the way that they raise their sons, men will continue to rape women and children. We need men to call out their male friends for casual as well as outright sexism. We need a more sensitised prime minister who understands that victim-blaming does not solve the issue and rapes do not happen because of what a girl is wearing; he needs to realise that these bizarre statements he makes on international television will give heed to more rapes and murders of women. He needs to realise that amending The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill according to what the conservatives think (the same conservatives who do not condemn gender based violence) will not improve a woman’s quality of life in this country.
Women live with fear every single day. The constant slut shaming, moral policing, sexist standards inside and outside of our homes are issues that a majority of us have been a target of ever since we were little girls. This intensifies as we become older because parents try to protect us from what men are capable of. Yet, these men don’t speak out enough. Hell, they don’t speak out at all. What we need most and I understand that will take several decades, is the acceptance of ‘feminist masculinity’, which as Bell Hooks argues in The Will to Change: Men Masculinity, and Love, “would have as its chief constituents integrity, self-love, emotional awareness, assertiveness and relational skill, including the capacity to be empathetic, autonomous and connected.”