Pakistan assembly finally did what it should have done about fifty years ago: passed a joint resolution that you cannot forgive murderers.

In a landmark resolution, Pakistani courts will no longer let honor killers go free in case their families decide to ‘forgive’ them. In another historic stance, DNA samples would also be sent for investigation, thereby “a provision to conduct DNA tests on both the alleged victim and perpetrator has been added for the first time”. Sughra Imam, who was one of the first people to table and push the bill forward, must be given due credit for it - but no less credit should be given to every single person who raised their voices against this horrifying practice that has been continued in this area of the world for the longest time.

Curiously enough, Jamshed Dasti seemed less than pleased about the bill’s passing. He felt that this bill did not have any reason to be a priority today since the forces were at the border worrying about a war. He called it a motive of Jewish agenda and American NGOs.

More curiously so, it was Jamshed Dasti’s guard/driver, Mushtaq Sial, who was involved in an honor killing. Dasti, of course, denied any such involvement. 

But no one has paid the price for this bill any more than the many many families who have lost their daughters in this barbaric practice. MNA Jamshed Dasti may have felt that this was a useless bill, but one must think of the heartbroken parents of Qandeel Baloch who lost their daughter to this inhumane tradition. Qandeel herself was bullied online by many people - she was called all kinds of slurs and derogatory names for her videos and photos. The same people came out to demonize honor-killers later - once the news of her murder made it to the airwaves - but all the men who used her as the butt of an easy joke or called many women like her ‘sluts’ and ‘bitches’ - were a part of the same problem that lead Qandeel Baloch’s brother murder her in cold blood.

While social media is a strong front for many a movement and mass awareness campaigns - there is a side to it which is ugly and becoming more and more notorious as its reach grows. Twitter bigwigs call it a ‘platform’ for free speech so they do not believe in excessive policing of the content. But there’s a strange and disconcerting underbelly to the snazzy icons and the inviting avatars. Most of it is overrun by a certain sad specie known as ‘the internet troll’. And while the purview of this troll extends to a lot of areas on the internet, its prime characteristic is (whether the dudebros would like to admit or not): misogyny.

“Oh I hate her, she’s a feminist” is a common reason to find someone unappealing or unworthy of respect. I was reading a couple of women discussing on a forum that they were slightly afraid of calling themselves feminists because they were afraid of the blowback it often entailed. Imagine how topsy-turvy this situation is. People are afraid of stating that they are happy to identify with a movement that speaks about bridging the gender divide. They are afraid of saying that they would like to be a part of a cause that wants to see women thrive and be treated like human beings. They are afraid of being dubbed as ‘whiny’ or ‘angry’ just because they want to talk about women empowerment. And therein lies the irony: every dudebro has become a whining Jamshed Dasti - whereas most women are afraid of speaking their minds.

Margaret Atwood once said:

“Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”

A study once asked what are the number one fears of men and women who use dating sites. Men said they are afraid a woman will turn out to be fat. Women were afraid men would turn out to be rapists.

I have had the (dis)pleasure of indulging in a few discourses with a group of people who wouldn’t understand the word misogyny despite my repeated explanations. Their argument was, “But the girl ran away from home too, why isn’t she blamed? Why does the guy get beaten up?” I kid you not. They were more worried about guys getting ‘beaten up’ - conveniently forgetting the hundreds of women who get shot, stabbed, burnt, attacked over this concept of ‘honour’ by none other than men of their own family.

The cringeworthy WhatsApp jokes that are often shared usually end up living up to the stereotypes that have been well-ingrained in our social fabric. Wives are stupid, ha ha. Girls are silly, ha ha. Of late, heard one about how feminists wanting to be served first at the tandoor wallah. Or how they will get a male butcher at Eid ul Azha. Or how they want their husbands and fathers to pay for their stuff. Or how all they do on Eid is wash dishes and take selfies. Then there are the memes that make absolutely no sense, that aren’t funny, but will score many likes/shares/RTs/screenshots because they are making fun of women or feminists.

What these ‘jokes’ often omit is how harassment takes place in public spheres. How women walk huddled together because they are afraid that if they walk alone, some entitled male is going to pass by with a catcall or a whistle (if he’s being kind; some of them find it well within their stride to expose their nether regions to a female stranger if they’re feeling happy enough) and because women are raised in a shame-based system that places the onus of respect solely upon their shoulders, an experience like this becomes traumatising and debilitating. These casual instances of sexism forget to take into account that it is men who tell women that they must either become wives or mothers first before even thinking about any other aim in life. 

These silly jokes also seem to forget how a woman is chastised in real life (and on the media, social and televised) if she is not ‘dressed’ properly. I have personally heard comments on my photos, videos “Where is your dupatta?”. I often get harassed online by men who make multiple accounts (once their old ones are shut down by Twitter) in order to stalk and send me abusive tweets and messages. And it’s not just me or my friends who have faced this repeated assault by the infamous trolls. This kind of accepted level of abuse is considered normal by Pakistani standards. Women are constantly labeled as ‘bipolar’ or ‘psycho’ or ‘mental’ if they are vocal or outspoken. Men blame women for not working after getting professional degrees, conveniently forgetting that there is an overwhelming percentage of urban educated households in Pakistan who want an educated daughter-in-law but would not allow her to work or have her own money, lest she get ‘too independent’ or starts having ‘a mind of her own’. Our people don’t even spare a woman if she makes it in the big leagues.

Even if it is in the case of Malala Yousafzai, who literally survived a murder attempt in order to become a Nobel prize winner. All she does is speak up for girls’ education. Yet instead of standing with her cause, there are men who actually sat down in a hotel in Islamabad and claimed “I am Not Malala”. Right. Big difference you’re making with that statement. Then there were so-called guardians of faith who wanted to shame Sharmeen Obaid, calling her abusive names from their Facebook platforms. All she did was highlight how tough women have it in Pakistan. But her Oscars became a reason for everyone, especially the misogynists, to hate her. It doesn’t even matter if you win an Oscar, or a Nobel or are even the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto faced similar gender bias when she faced the likes of people like Sheikh Rasheed. Of late, it was the federal defense minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Asif, who stood on the parliament floor and called his opponent Shireen Mazari abusive and sexist slurs.

Societies that have moved beyond these neanderthal behaviours and petty jokes about feminists needing a male qasai on Eid, indeed have women present in most walks of life, including butchery. Yet it does not mean that these societies are free from patriarchal oppression or that women in those societies don’t have a cause. They have cases such as Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman and was able to walk free just after three months for ‘good behavior’. 

Those ‘evolved societies' are struggling with institutionalised misogyny as well. It’s not an isolated phenomena. Most people respond to honor killings in Pakistan with this unoriginal tripe: ’Hey, women get raped in America too!’ which I suppose in their head is supposed to make honor killings in Pakistan okay. But here’s the bottom line: none of it is okay. And you’re not helping by making these false equivalences. 

To quote Dale Spencer, an Australian theorist:

““Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working condition, for safety on the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,”  I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?””

Pakistan has witnessed over thousands of honour killings just in less than five years. Every year there are at least a thousand women who are killed in the name of honour. But the average Pakistani seems to find more of a problem with feminists than it does with placing ‘honour’ on a woman’s shoulders. Their entrenched misogyny and thought-process that women are inherently inferior or are of children of a lesser God finds way in their everyday habits. Even if it is as much as rt-ing, sharing or forwarding an anti-feminist, sexist, hateful joke on their smartphones.