Ayesha Gulalai: Where we messed up
I was casually scrolling through Twitter when I first read about Ayesha Gulalai's sexual harassment accusation against Imran Khan. My first reaction was of disbelief followed by distress as I saw the trajectory of public opinion regarding the matter.
In a society that lets no chance slide when it comes to silencing a woman by fully exercising its patriarchal dominance. Our limited focus on sexual harassment reports and subsequent conviction rates speaks volumes about how negligibly our system prioritizes sexual abuse. But apart from the system, as much as we claim to be educated, informed individuals, events of the past have proved that despite these claims we seem to lack the basic empathy to relate to another human being.
In this particular case, what we failed to consider was that it didn’t matter if Gulalai's accusations were true or false, what mattered was how we treated a sexual harassment case. Sure, her statements just kept getting fishier. But how is that an excuse for dragging a woman through the mud? How can we possibly sleep thinking we've done the world a service by creating a national spectacle? If only we'd stop to think for second we'd realise the ripple effects our actions are causing.
How we treated the Gulalai situation, one of the most high profile sexual harassment cases in Pakistan, set a precedent for how future harassment cases will be dealt with, or more importantly, how comfortable victims will feel about coming forward with their experiences.
Instead of giving Gulalai the benefit of the doubt, or at the very least treating her allegations with a little respect and consideration, we ostracized the woman and resorted to cheap tactics to malign not only her character, but also her sister's. I mean just ask yourself, how hard is it to simply reserve judgement and wait for the court to finish its investigation? We'd much rather become keyboard warriors and decide somebody's character sitting comfortably behind our screens, while imposing our own perspective.
A lot of people I know argue that it is Gulalai's fault that sexual harassment is being treated as a joke. However, if we entertain that train of thought for a moment, it boils down to one question: The words that came out of our mouths, did Gulalai say them or did we? Considering the obvious answer, I think it's safe to say that the impact our words will havewill be entirely our fault. The situation would've been so much simpler if we had just acknowledged her right to go to court and waited for the decision.
In a world where the truth is becoming increasingly hazy, wouldn’t you agree that the least you and I could do is make sure we don’t cause any more damage than what has already been done by false information? Instead of acting like 5th graders and pointing at Gulalai saying, "She made us do it," if we were to just act like educated, sensible people by taking responsibility, and having some empathy. I think that would be a good start.