Harassment debate edges towards trivialisation

Some question existence of sexual harassment in social, online debate


Muhammad Shahzad October 18, 2021
PHOTO: SCREENGRAB

LAHORE:

After the leak of audio and video of clips of Ayesha Akram and her partner Rambo discussing extortion from arrested suspects in the Greater Iqbal Park case and blackmailing them, arguments based on fallacies in an effort to undermine and trivialise the existence of sexual harassment as a factual and prevalent everyday issue were seen swamping the social as well as online debate.

Ad hominem (attacking the person) and ad populum (appeal to the people) arguments are two commonly used logical fallacies.

We often see people using such fallacies to build up their arguments in conversations. In ad hominem rhetoric, instead of answering the arguments of a person, his person is attacked with irrelevant conjectures.

In the ad populum approach, an argument is stressed to be true on the premise that majority of the people believed it.

A journalist wrote on social media, “Lahore police should stop registering cases of harassment of girls against youth after the true face of Ayesha Akram has been revealed.

Read Police seek legal opinion on harassment case

The police, only on someone's complaint, should not register a case, but first investigate if the victim was speaking the truth.

Last night, a case was registered in Defence in which the woman argued that after she sat in the car of a boy, he slapped and harassed her. Now the girl was not her cousin who boarded his car. The case should have been investigated as to why she got into the car at the behest of an unknown man.”

Before the whole issue of the sexual harassment is trivialised, there is a need to look into two aspects.

Ayesha may have gone to Minar-e-Pakistan to gain attention motivated by ‘click bait’ for her social media accounts, but what she planned and how she acted does not absolve the police from their responsibility of ensuring law and order at public places regardless of people’s character, creed and caste.

When she was surrounded, around three dozen calls were made to police but they did not show up. There is no justification for the negligence of duty.

Secondly, hundreds of person who groped, stripped and harassed her.

If the mob harassment is justified, the same logic may be used to justify vandalisation of the house or locality of an offender or an assault.

The debate does not stop here. It unveils other aspects of harassment issues also like date rape and the correlation between what women wear and molestation.

It also encompasses the aspects of debates surrounding marital rape.

The arguments of justification of Ayesha’s treatment at the park are embedded in a mindset that a woman of good character does not have affairs, and cannot like, love or date a person. In the same context, she should not go to public places like the complainant of the harassment case did on the Independence Day.

In many instances, if a woman meeting a man is attacked, she herself is blamed.

Read more Iqbal Park case: TikToker ‘discussed blackmailing arrested mobsters’

We have seen articles and opinion pieces even from some prominent people on the basis of the same logic against Noor Muqaddam who was murdered in Islamabad.

In all this, the question of consent is missing. The consent is not eternal and a woman has every right to exercise it.

Every non-consensual approach is tantamount to harassment.

Our male dominated society is not accustomed to the idea that a woman also has a free will, thus it becomes difficult for it to identify harassment.

Ayesha loudly asked the hundreds of men not to surround molest her and every single act faced by her afterwards was harassment.

On October 8, Ayesha submitted a written statement to DIG Investigation Shariq Jamal in which she alleged that Rambo had made the plan to go to Greater Iqbal Park, adding that Rambo along with his companions had filmed an objectionable video of her and was blackmailing her for the past three years.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2021.

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