Men must understand that if a woman says ‘no’ to a sexual advance, it means no, and men cannot impose their desires on women Director, Aks Research Centre, Tasneem Ahmer said.
Ahmer added that the media had a critical role to play in educating the people about this. She expressed these views while talking on Express 24/7 show, Witness with Quatrina on the subject of rape.
Quatrina Hosain started the program off in light of a recent report that talks about how rape cases are reported in the media.
The report had been consolidated by the Aks Research Centre, of which Ahmer is director. Ahmer was joined in the studio by Dr Salman Asif, a gender specialist and an advisor to UN, and Muhammad Ziauddin, the Executive Editor of The Express Tribune.
Ahmer was of the point of view that media must play a proactive role in informing people about their rights, via numerous publications, editorials, columns, blogs, stage plays, dramas, television serials, and films. She said that the report was made after the frenzied coverage of a rape incident that took place in Karachi last December. The biggest role of the media is making people aware of the “no” factor, that when a girl, regardless of her state or background, says no to a sexual advance, it means no.
Dr Salman Asif then asked Ahmer how in a society where there is inequality, where rape is an expression of power and exacting revenge, where the honour of a man lies in the chastity of women, where there are forced marriages and child marriages, can women be empowered to say “no”?
“The discourse on rape needs to start at the unevenness, at the vulnerability of a girl of their human rights” he suggested.
Muhammad Ziauddin agreed that education of women is critical in making people aware of their rights and what the laws are, and what an unwanted touch is. Not only do the girls need to be educated, attitudinal education of men also needs to be carried out he said. Even non-victim women, like house wives need to be educated so that if they see signs of abuse appear within their own home they can stand up against it. Popular media has addressed many such issues in recent programming.
Dr Asif was of the view that the men in the society are under extreme peer pressure, whether it is with regards to their sexuality or in exacting a revenge on their “honour” after a woman has been raped. With the rape perpetrator more often than not a person who is known to the victim, he called for a paradigm shift in the way women at large are seen in our society.
Ahmer was of the view that the best way to tackle issues like puberty and sexuality is to talk about them. Primary support networks, such as between mother and daughters, between sisters, friends, cousins and so on. Dr Asif added to Ahmer’s comment that similar talking sessions should be held among the men as well.
Dr Asif went on to say that sexual abuse in our society cannot be effectively tackled until and unless there was strong legal policy and implementation. Ziauddin suggested that there should be a specially trained woman force that deals with investigations into rapes and handling of the victims through the investigation process.
The program ended on the note that the media must talk about these issues. Stories should not be buried and the real story should be brought to the front.