After two harrowing experiences, Ayshvows to stand up against violence.
“I will keep resisting this culture that wants to bind a girl to sit behind closed doors and allows boys to dominate everywhere.”
My name is Aysh.
I am a middle class girl from Pakistan. I am going to tell you a real life story about two incidents that happened to me. One was some time ago; the other happened just yesterday.
For nine years, I have been traveling first to school and then to work on my own in local vans and rickshaws in my city. I have faced two instances of harassment. They were different events, and yet, they have had the same impact on my mind.
Last year, I was being harassed by an unknown mobile number. He made me crazy by following my office routine, my personal life, and my online activity—my official email ID and my Facebook account. I blocked the almost 15 numbers he used to try to contact me, but he kept changing them. He disturbed me in every way possible, and I finally lost my patience. I made an official complaint on the helpline on cyber crimes from the Federal Investigation Agency Pakistan. They made one warning call to him, and he apologized to me and never contacted me again. Filing that complaint was the best thing I did in my life.
I am still shivering from the harassment I experienced yesterday, in a different way. It was near 4:00 in the afternoon, and I was leaving the office. I had to walk for almost 10 minutes to reach the rickshaw stand, due to construction.
As I was walking, a man in a grey colored car passed by very near to me. He was so close that he splattered mud on my shawl. Still, I ignored him and kept walking. Then, I took a rickshaw. As I was sitting in the back seat, the same man waved his right hand at me and began to send flying kisses towards me. I continued to ignore him, but he kept following me in the rickshaw.
There was a lady sitting with me. She looked at me with doubt, as she thought that I was this man’s girlfriend. She started in on her so-called “cultural values” lecture. She said that she had been doing a job in a hospital since she was 13 years old, and she never did anything to break the trust of her family.
I was so hurt. And yet, I said nothing to her. Instead, I waved the back of my right shoe towards the car. The woman became shocked when I did this, and fell silent. I did this not to irritate the guy who was harassing me, but to satisfy the woman sitting with me.
The man felt insulted, and he started to follow me in his car with increased speed. The rickshaw stopped at a petrol pump that happened to be near the university where I got my degree.
While we were stopped, the man made a warning sign to me by raising his finger. He was conveying to me that I had insulted him, and he would take revenge. The first thing that came to my mind was that this could result in rape, as it is a grave thing in my culture to challenge a man’s ego.
I was very scared, and I decided to leave that rickshaw. I screamed, “Stop in front of the university. Stop right now!” After paying the fare, I crossed two roads almost running.
After I entered the school, I found I was shivering and crying and full of sweat. I told the guard that a guy was following me, and I came to the university because I felt it a safe place. This guard was so worried, and he brought me water, and then went to look for the man. He couldn’t find him. He gave me a chair and his phone to call home, as I was out of balance on mine.
I called my cousin and through tears asked him to come pick me up. He came immediately and took me home.
After I reached home, I couldn’t shake the fear. I still can’t. I felt like a young girl. When I saw the warning sign from him, all my bravery went away in a second. I’m still traumatized, and I am still thinking about what could have happened if I hadn’t left the rickshaw. As the elder sibling, I have to do my job to support myself and my family.
I pay all my bills; I harm no one; I spread peace and love and work hard for a successful career. I want a normal life. But these incidents scare me and leave me depressed and really discouraged.
But I will not sit idle at home after facing this harassment. I believe that after some time, I will escape this mental pain and be stronger as “there are no lessons in life but learning.”
I will not leave my job, and I will not hire a private van. I will keep doing it the way I was doing it. I will keep resisting this culture that wants to bind a girl to sit behind closed doors and allows boys to dominate everywhere.
But there are two questions on my mind.
As women, why don’t we support each other when these incidents happen? I waved the shoe at the man to let the woman next to me know that this guy was not my boyfriend. The whole incident would have been different if she had shown me support while I was being harassed. I would have felt encouraged, supported, and safe.
Secondly, what kind of satisfaction does a man feel when he harasses a girl? Why is his ego so big that he feels okay waving his hands and sending kisses to a girl he does not know, but when that girl responds negatively, he feels he must take revenge to prove he is a man?
We must start teaching our girls to support each other. Bullying other girls is not good character.
And we must teach our boys to behave. Harassing girls will not make them more man.
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