LAHORE: Lahore Police arrested a suspect for committing indecent exposure and sexually harassing women in the city’s Raiwind area on Friday.
The suspect was identified as Arsalan Manzoor, a resident of a private housing society in Chung. The issue was highlighted after a victim, using an anonymous twitter handle, took to social media to report the incident using a #MeToo hashtag.
She said that the incident occurred in Etihad Town on Raiwind Road at around 5pm. “I’m a student and I have to travel through motorcycle rickshaw with some other girls. Today, on my way back to home, a guy on a bike started chasing us. The rickshaw was full of girls and as he started to come closer, we got confused.”
The victim continued, “And he came near us as much as possible and started flashing his [private area]. All the girls were shivering with fear, including me. However, I could no longer keep my gaze lower and I took out my mobile and took photos of him and his number plate.”
She added, “I want this post to make it to his home where his mothers and sisters are. We have to stand against such behaviour. This post aims to raise awareness of a type of harassment many of us face on a daily basis. #MeToo,” she concluded.
Her story went viral on social media and people also tagged the official twitter account of the Punjab police. The handler asked the victim to contact the police and lodge a formal complaint.
Later, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) BA Nasir took notice of the incident and ordered SP Saddar Ahsan Saifullah to take prompt action. Police arrested the suspect early on Friday.
The CCPO, while appreciating the performance of the SP, warned rogue elements that the harassment of women would not be tolerated. “Anyone who tries to harass women will be sent to jail. Lahore police have once again established public trust,” said Nasir.
After the arrest of the suspect, Saifullah tweeted, “We’ve managed to arrest the accused and have impounded his motorcycle. Now I request [the victim] to contact me to provide relevant details to register an FIR against the culprit.”
The question of lodging a formal complaint to proceed with further legal action sparked a debate on social media. The victim refused to reveal her identity as she feared that her family would impose restrictions on her movement once they learnt of the incident.
Saifullah, in a tweet, said the police were looking for ways to proceed without the lodging of a formal complaint.
Gender Rights Activist Nighat Dad assumed that the victim, using cyberspace anonymously, wanted to express the challenges women faced on a daily basis. She said there was a prevalent culture in society that snubbed women for exposing injustices.
She said that in such a scenario, there were certain gaps that needed to be identified and solutions should be devised by taking all stakeholders on board. Dad asked for a mechanism through which the public data of victims remained protected.
Another Gender Rights Activist, Sara Suhail, commented that state institutions were not open to such victims. She added that the departments leaned towards being male dominated.
“No woman, whether a victim of domestic or any other kind of violence, feels comfortable approaching the police. There is a culture and environment which asserts that any woman approaching the police was not of good character.” Suhail also pointed out that the police department had less than 2% female staff to deal with a total population of around 50%.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2019.