While living abroad, rarely do we experience the problem I am about to highlight in this article. As soon as I got out of the airport, I could feel it with such intensity that I wished people who did this had better things to do with their lives. Maybe over time I could have gotten used to it just like Pakistanis living in the country don’t often realize it, but I subconsciously felt it every single time I was in public. Pakistani men can’t help but stare at women without any hesitation or shame – anyone and everyone is their victim in public. Whether you’re wearing an ‘abaya, covering your face with a niqab, or out in plain old shalwaar kameez – you’ll be stared at regardless of what you wear.
Pakistan is a good place to live in but I won’t hesitate to outline the problems that exist within our cultural fabric, especially when they can be eliminated with good focus and an open discussion. Perhaps people who live in that system don’t realize it – I thought to myself – but that’s completely untrue. Family members and cousins narrated experiences they have had with men when they are out in public – from being followed by men upon returning home from college/work to men touching the small of your back in a crowded area assuming that you did not realize the assault. These are just a couple examples of the many stories I listened to.
If all of these men had something productive to do with their lives, this problem would have diminished by now. The roots of this issue manifest itself in excessive free time and faulty upbringing of boys. If they were rebuked for their actions by their parents every time they eyed a woman as if she’s just a piece of meat, I wouldn’t be penning down this issue right now. If all of us had surrounded ourselves with productive work and recreational activities, we wouldn’t have found time to do a “sit & stare” session.
The religion we so passionately follow paints quite an opposite portrait of a Muslim who carries himself with dignity and honour. Perhaps if we analysed the Islamic code of public conduct from the lives of our Prophets (peace be upon them) and the great scholars that came after, we would be better off. We need to move beyond gaining knowledge and towards implementation.
Through some discussion with family and friends, another reason was brought into perspective. The cultural fabric of western societies is quite different, in that men and women can be alone together anywhere, have a casual conversation and it won’t be looked down upon. It is a cultural norm, nothing out of ordinary. However, in our society casual relationships between men and women outside of family are restricted and for a good reason. I personally don’t agree with this being the reason why Pakistani men act the way they do because staring at anyone to satisfy your desires is never the solution. Also because present universities in big cities in Pakistan have provided platforms where men and women can interact professionally. Also, this can be purely co-incidental but there’s a huge difference in regards to this problem between cities like Islamabad and Chakwal where people of the latter are more conservative in their lifestyle.
Overcoming the Ego:
In the end, we need to overcome our ego and consider this a problem that predates our society. To become fruitful members of our communities, we need to constantly engage with people who are already higher up on the ladder in improving their surroundings.
Learn to improve. This should be our motto. To join and build organizations and institutions wherever one finds a good niche. To keep doing good work. Anything and everything that helps you become a better as a person and makes your surroundings better is the solution here.
The more occupied our minds are with matters of akhirah and death, the more conscious we will be of our actions in this world. These are just some thoughts on how a society can improve itself and they may seem too broad but they have implications that far supersede the results of the issue aforementioned.