Why the Sahiwal stabbings are an attack on all Pakistani women

Published September 17, 2015
All such attacks on women tell them; scream to them, rather, that this is their real place – cloaked and invisible. —Creative commons
All such attacks on women tell them; scream to them, rather, that this is their real place – cloaked and invisible. —Creative commons

Somewhere in Sahiwal, if a woman now decides to jog at the Ladies and Children Park in Farid Town, it would be an act nothing short of gallantry and revolt; a woman versus patriarchy affair; versus subjugation; versus the culture of associating women claiming public space with disgust.

I say that because in the past few months, several women frequenting this park independently have been stabbed by unidentified men using a sharp metal weapon. The region is cast over by champions of a certain morality that can only be compared to the medieval era when girl-children were buried alive.

It isn’t just the lack of utilitarianism of the public space that is worrying, it is the fact that women never really had much freedom to begin with. Getting groceries, visiting a neighbour or taking a stroll does not need to be a political act for a woman.

Somewhere in the past, when this region was sold over to men unilaterally, it was assumed that public space would only become a passage for women – not a place they could legitimately claim as their own.

This is perhaps why a woman in black pants and a white-collared shirt, smoking a cigarette at a busy chowk in Sahiwal would sound like someone drew a target on a boar. It is not hers for the claiming, now and, for what looks like many eons to come.

Know more: Women and public space

As long as men in Pakistani society refuse to consider women as full partners, men will only identify them with the private sphere. Anything otherwise will be war.

In such a scenario, war on women takes many forms, and sexual harassment and stabbing is just its extreme and logical conclusion.

Owing to the legal and administrative vacuums in Pakistan, this crime thrives and ultimately achieves its end – to instill fear, loathing and self-hate in women, communicating to them that their bodies are subjects only of control, vitriol or violence.

Girls and women start to grow feelings of deletion and depersonalisation. They not only end up hiding their femininity and sensuality, but also eventually rejecting it.

This violence to the collective psychology of women is jarring. It is easier to couch next to the hearth to bake bread and nurse bruises.

All such attacks on women publicly tell them; scream to them, rather, that this is where their real place is – cloaked and invisible.

Women belong in the public space, as much as any man in shops behind counters, study desks at schools, work desks at businesses, at vegetable stalls haggling or behind the wheel shifting gears. However, this is dangerous (for men) because it means power will need to be shared and the smarter and more capable ones will win.

The continuous effort to dominate women by destabilising them reeks of a deeper conspiracy – one where it serves everyone to not identify attackers and keep them from being tried.

Thank you, Punjab Police, for not finding any suspects or perpetrators.

The vulnerability of women supports the construct where men call the shots. All of them. Fair competition in the open obviously hurts those with power.

The only time women step out of the house is with a man, so she walks around like an apostrophe that ties her to an object that owns her, so no one can go leak on this hydrant. As one can imagine, no one can truly make any revolutionary progress in such a smothering environment – not only are the women handicapped, it’s also the men that lose their crutch.

Read on: Punjab notes: Woman in public: Body language born of fear!

The country’s law enforcement agencies need to be equipped with the right priorities first of all, ones that don’t actually work to help the stabber.

There have to be serious deterrents for attackers, swifter action, not just a fake inquiry and some dusty reports.

Heads need to roll so that the people responsible for allowing these serial stabbings can actually be replaced by more competent police staff.

To cut this at the roots, we need less male psyche and more human male psyche, and it looks like now, they are completely and totally mutually exclusive.


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