Facing down intimidation, women all over this traditional region are speaking out about sexual harassment and violence
Ali Zafar is famed across South Asia for his pop music, romantic comedies and even the occasional toothpaste advert. But last weekend he gave a particularly emotional performance on Pakistani television, tears welling in his eyes as he spoke of the effect sexual harassment allegations has had on his life. For the past year, the actor and musician has been embroiled in the countrys most high-profile #MeToo case: his initial accuser was the actress and singer Meesha Shafi.
Last April she issued a statement claiming that Zafar had sexually harassed her on more than one occasion. He responded by categorically denying the allegations and promising to sue.
The stars have since been locked in a legal battle including a defamation suit for 1bn rupees (5.4m) in damages, which led to the courts ordering Shafi to abstain from making any further negative remarks against Zafar. Last weekend, after Zafars television appearance, Shafis lawyer, Nighat Dad, tweeted her verdict: If anyone has earned the right to cry today, its thousands of survivors around us who were forced to watch a privileged man accused of sexual harassment and whine.
Since the #MeToo movement gathered pace in October 2017, attitudes to sexual harassment and abuse have shifted in many parts of the world. Across South Asia, in countries where local feminists decry conservative and patriarchal attitudes, campaigners have noted a marked increase in the number of women speaking out.
And, as the Observer found on a recent visit to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, a newly emboldened cohort of female lawyers are rallying to offer their support to survivors. One of the most prominent is Dad.
Lots of younger women have gotten so much courage and have started talking about their own experiences, she said during a recent interview over chips and coffee in Lahore. In the wake of Shafis accusations, more women came out against Zafar and other men, whether celebrities or not. As one of the countrys foremost feminist lawyers, Dad found her inbox full of stories from women asking for help. I knew something had to be done, she said, and I asked myself how lawyers wanting to work on this issue could get together and do something to support these women collectively.
In January, along with her small team at Lahore-based NGO the Digital Rights Foundation, Dad launched an online portal for women to access pro-bono legal support for cases of sexual harassment and violence. Dad decided the project should be self-sustaining rather than funded by foreign donors because agencies always have their own aims and objectives, and because when the money ends, the initiative ends. The site is called Ab Aur Nahin Times Up in Urdu. Were telling these people that enough is enough, said Dad. Were taking charge of this issue.
Now 50 lawyers are registered on the site, 30 of them women. Its amazing because there are so few female litigators in Pakistan, said Dad. Or if there are women lawyers, they dont go to the courts because of the misogynistic environment.
So far, the network of lawyers has supported 15 women with everything from writing statements to legal representation and advice on responding when accused men slap back with defamation suits.
The site is targeted at young women, said Dad. They are using online spaces to speak up, and mostly dont want their families involved because theres still shame attached to being a survivor. In many cases, she said, young women fear their studies or work will be compromised if they tell their families about an incident.
This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific
Interested in building a blog or auto-blog like this one ? Or just want to order one ? Join our "Blogging Tips Tricks and Resources Skype" Group and let's chat about it.
Interested in Starting your own Roku TV Channel ? Or interested in learning how to build one ? Join our "Roku TV Channel Development" Skype Group and let's chat about it.
If you enjoyed our content, we'd really appreciate some "love" with a share or two.
And ... Don't forget to have fun!