Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sexual Harassment

I was at the mall this morning browsing through the books when I heard a woman screaming around the corner.

“Don’t move!”

It was a Scottish accent and as I looked up I saw the face of Mrs. Cairns. When I was at school, Mrs. Cairns had been one of the English teachers in the primary section. She looked livid now.

“Don’t you move!” she screamed at the man standing in front of her.

A security guard was trying to pacify her and ask her what the problem was.

“This man defiled my daughter!” There was a young teenage girl standing next to her.

“He passed his hands over her body and felt her!” She demonstrated the movements on the child. The girl burst into tears.

A small crowd had gathered by now. People were pulling out cell-phones. The man who had been accused tried to say he was sorry.

“Sorry?!” she exploded hysterically. “What good is sorry going to do?! You defiled my daughter!” The girl had wrapped herself around her mother, hiding her face from public view.

A small cordon of security guards and shop assistants had gathered around them. One of them dispersed the crowd. I walked away.

In Pakistan, when I was in medical school, some of our female classmates had told us about this sort of harassment. Out shopping something would touch them or pinch them or try to feel them up. This usually happened in crowded places and the perpetrator was either difficult to identify or the girls hadn’t wanted to create a scene. They were too embarrassed, too ashamed to report it.

Like my classmates, I’m sure there are many girls and women who have to endure this sick behavior on a daily basis. I can’t imagine how traumatic it must be, to have your body violated and treated like public property. I can understand why the girls wouldn’t want to bring the issue up. And yet, as traumatic as it may have been for her daughter, I am glad Mrs. Cairns brought it out. I’m glad she stood up for her daughter and defended her in front of a crowd of strangers. No woman deserves to be treated that way, let alone a young girl. I have heard arguments about eve-teasing (what a stupid word!) where accusers have said they were led on by a provocative style of dress or some flirtatious behavior. That’s such a rubbish excuse. No self-respecting man would ever treat a woman with anything but respect. And those who don’t, they need to be identified and punished.

As upsetting as it was, I’m glad Mrs. Cairns made an incident of the act. I hope it serves as an example for other women.


Blogger life in words said...

its very rare that someone will actually "make a scene" when such a thing occurs. im glad this is happening.

partially the reason why i used to hate going to deira city center on fridays. not to mention they were always out of chocolate brownies.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Abez said...

It's very true, it happens to all women in their lifetime, unfortunately more than once, and it's too embarrassing to do anything about. Hooray for Mrs Cairns. I hope that guy got a beating.

2:01 PM  
Blogger * said...

So many people have reported this, I am begining to wonder about Paki land!


1:45 AM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

Thanks for your comments.

* : I don't think it's something unique to Pakistan. This behavior is fairly ubiquitous, though the degree to which it is discussed or addressed may vary.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous yaser said...

i have female friends who've experienced such harassment-- oftentimes overtly--and this at a public university in toronto. it makes my blood boil to hear about such incidents. every one of my friends has refused to report the incident or let me do anything about it because they're afraid of being embarassed, the consequences, and/or their reputations being tarnished.

12:44 AM  

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