On July 20, 27-year-old Noor Muqaddam was murdered by an influential businessman Zahir Zamir Jaffer. Her brutal killing brought a significant outrage from the public and angry citizens demanding justice for Noor with trending hashtags on Twitter.
Noor Mukaddam’s case represents the stagnant number of horrific violence against women in Pakistan and the toxic culture that maintains and promotes men like Zahir Jaffer to exist, and not be held accountable for their actions.
Pakistan is regarded as the sixth most dangerous country for women as per a survey carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The survey was conducted in 2018.
There are various cases of violence against women and children reported every day, while many are left unreported and undetected with victim being forced to remain silence.
On July 18, Qurat ul Ain, a mother of 4 children was killed, allegedly by her husband at their household. Recently, there have been several cases of rape, harassment, bullying and domestic violence, involving women and children most of time but sometimes even goats are not spared .
If one dives into the news prevailing in Pakistan, there is no end to how many victims of violence are present, or can’t report or chose not to due to the misogynistic and patriarchal norm that discourages them to .
Noor murder case also gives insight into the various problems lingering in our cultural ways, and how they contribute to making victims feel threatened and vulnerable by reporting and make the culprit of the crime stronger.
One of the most prominent reactions victims receive after the traumatic crime and its reporting, is the ‘blame game’. Rather than supporting the victim, people start asking questions to frame a profile on the victim. In Noor’s case, there were many assumptions leading to her character assassination, shared all over social media, not considering the insensitivity and inaccurate information spreading due to it
This culture of spreading blame, and identifying if the victim fits our description of ‘pious’ and ‘good’ woman, encourages culprits to get away with it, and also deters the victim from getting the culprit.
This victim blaming is not only a cultural problem, but it has systematically overtaken every sector Pakistan. After the rape of women at the Lahore-Sialkot motorway on September 9, 2020, the (CCPO) Umar Sheikh publicly questioned ‘why did the victim follow this route?’
Not only the statement from a police official is insensitive, but it shows the deep culture of victim-blaming ingrained in our society. Rather than focusing on providing justice to the victims, the system rather tries to put the victim in a vulnerable position, open to people shifting the blame of her rape on her–not on the rapists.
Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan previously made statements on how the ‘clothes on women’ are responsible for provoking men and leading to rape. However, the PM currently has changed his stance and spoken against blaming anyone but the rapist, but his first stance and his long speech trying to justify his words prove that this culture of blaming victims is quite dominant in Pakistan.
The onlookers of violence
In every case of violence, instigated against women and children, there are always people who do not take a stand and let the abuse be dismissed under the rugs.
New information about Noor’s case reveals that she was tortured for 3 hours, and ran from the house towards the security room, from where Zahir dragged her back in. There were guards, and people present on the streets who saw all this and took no action, not even calling the police.
Noor’s death could have been avoided if the people who were present there took action. No one did. Qurat-ul-Ain faced domestic abuse at the hands of her husband frequently. Everyone knew, yet no one spoke up about her until her demise.
The onlookers start from the people in our neighborhood, friends, family members towards the authorities. Everyone is an accomplice in the crime if they see the crime but don’t take action. Sadly it’s accustomed in our culture to not meddle in others’ affairs and keep noses out of other households until someone is found dead.
Sensationalisation of graphic crime videos
The proliferation of violent and graphic content has make it a popular demand in Pakistan, but it promotes desensitisation against gruesome murders and other violent acts.
There is a dangerous viral spread of videos each time any of such incident happens, and it mostly features the victim in the crime. An example of this is the couple allegedly harassed by Usman Mirza, and the recent attempted rape of a woman leaving her injured and her infant son dead.
In many cases, videos go viral of the victim making their safety and identity at risk. It also gives out content for people as entertainment, as the comment sections on social media are filled with people asking for ‘links’ of crimes, or footage of the incident under question.
This culture of spreading uncensored videos is dangerous and can produce severe and long term psychological outcomes on the audience upon remaining unaddressed. Last but not the least, this culture also normalises violence, giving more power to the culprits, rather than providing the victims with justice and protection.
This article is submitted by Izma Azeem Chughtai.