On International Women’s day, March 8, there are many “women’s marches” across the world. Earlier this year, Pakistan’s version of the March called the “Aurat March” shook the internet.
Marches are meant to get your attention. They can have placards that catch your eye or slogans that are catchy. They’re meant to leave an impact. To get your voices heard you need to get everyone to pay attention.
The placards used in the 2019 March were deemed “beghairat” by a lot of the general population. Those who didn’t understand what they meant.
It’s the era of memes, things aren’t always as you see them. It doesn’t hurt to think a little “what does that placard really mean? And why does it affect me so much?”
These placard affected people so much they’d track the women holding them down and threaten them over social media. Their faces were edited into other photographs or their pictures were posted with abuses all around.
But all this came from people who didn’t actually participate in the march themselves. They were unaware of who even marched? Women, men, trans – all the genders from all over the country, rich and poor, educated and uneducated people alike, all came together to raise a voice against the patriarchy.
But how dare they?
People who believe that Pakistan is a very safe place for women need a wake up call. Look around you. Ask around you. No woman in the country feels 100% safe. Parents worry when it’s after sunset and their daughters haven’t come home “anyone can be a predator”
We have to face the facts, there’s countless rape cases reported each year and even more go unreported. There’s domestic abuse in almost every home and many other problems that we shouldn’t be facing in 2019.
This year when the official Aurat March Facebook page posted a photo on their wall encouraging people to come join their organizing committee, but they didn’t realize that the post would end up being the one with the most engagement on their entire page.
And a lot of the engagement ended up being negative. Men that have egos so fragile that a march made them so angry they started posting rape threats in the comments. More came in and backed them up adding acid attack threats into the mix.
Later, screenshots of their vile comments went viral on social media, and as weak beings do, they got scared and immediately said that they didn’t even mean it. Two of them issued haphazard apologies and deactivated their accounts.
Somehow, an act of violence as serious as rape or acid attack is very easy to “joke about” for a lot of people. Sending rape threats over the internet does not count as freedom of speech, it is hate speech.
Before you decide to send threats to women online you should know that hate speech comes under cyber bullying – which is a crime.
Your profiles WILL go viral. Your families, work places, educational institutions can be contacted. You could be defamed in your families, fired from jobs, or thrown out of universities.
You no longer have the luxury of hiding behind your computer screen. Whatever you say WILL come back to you.
If you’re educated enough to be on social media platforms, be educated enough to know that threats are not a joke. And if you are still one of the people whose masculinity gets easily threatened by women wanting to raise their voices, ask yourselves why? Because there’s never a good reason to want to silence someone who wants to raise their voice.