jyoti-mar5I finally gathered some courage to watch the much-talked-about India’s Daughter documentary by BBC Four. Going over the gruesome details of the gang-rape and murder of Jyoti Singh was gut-wrenching to say the least. The documentary highlighted the extent of the rampant problem of rape in India and people’s attitude towards it — the one that is the direct consequence of the deep-rooted patriarchy.

Like it was shown in the documentary, the default reaction of the offenders and their apologists is “she deserved it” or “we did it to teach her a lesson”. One would hope to see the convicted rapists and murderers to show some remorse during the interview in the documentary, only to be disappointed.

So, other than bashing India and cheering that they have achieved extremely bad press, what does this documentary and the whole Jyoti Singh case mean for Pakistan? Is our rape problem any different? Are we any better? I’ll leave that for you to answer… can you swear to God and say that watching this documentary wasn’t like looking in a mirror? Rape, honour-killing, Wani and the deep-rooted patriarchy…sounds familiar right? The only difference, perhaps, is that several rape cases go unreported due to the reasons like shame, trauma and the legal system here.

There might be one other difference; India has actually started addressing the problem. Have we? Don’t be misguided by Punjab Chief Minister’s full page ‘women protection’ advertisements. The only way out is to truly tackle the problem. Following are the lessons that us, Pakistanis, should seriously learn from Jyoti Singh, the unfortunate India’s (or should I say South Asia’s) daughter.

1. Women are equal to men

Jyoti Singh and her parents’ message that is now reaching out to the masses teaches us the most basic lesson about the humanity; i.e. men and women, daughters and sons are equal. Women have a right to have ambitions and dreams; and a right to equal opportunities to achieve those dreams.

2. Break the silence

We have to commend people in India to come out on streets and break the silence. That is what we need to do here in Pakistan. Instead of urging rape victims to remain silent, we need to do our part to get help (psychological, trauma management and legal etc) to the survivor.

3. Awareness and Education

As sickening as it was listening to rapists’ defense lawyers telling how they were ‘proud’ of their ‘culture’ of treating women like objects; and how he would have burnt his own daughter had she been out late with a guy, it didn’t surprise me a bit. As someone from South Asian background, we’re used to hearing misogynistic and patriarchal slurs from men around us. I remember how a superior at one of the organisations where I worked once told me women are of ‘faulty-intellect’ by default; and how a female colleague once told me she doesn’t want rights because if women were in leadership place, the world would go upside down; Stockholm syndrome much?

And then we have religious leaders — some even educated (apparently) ones like Dr Zakir Naik — who say the way a woman dresses is to be blamed if she is raped. It’s time we started questioning these absurd beliefs. People need to be educated and made aware about gender-equality, rights and boundaries.

An individual’s voice might only fall to the deaf ears but with support from the civil society, community based organisations and the power of media, the ball can get rolling.

I can break it down to specifics if you still don’t get it:

– Staying out late doesn’t make her of bad character

– If you can wear whatever you want, she can too

– No, the way she dresses doesn’t mean she’s asking for it… the problem is with your gaze and instinct to assault someone

– She has a right to equal education

– She has the right to work along side men, and on equal footing — and just because a woman is working doesn’t automatically means she has a bad ‘character’. Because by your definition of character, she will be bad no matter what she does.

– She is equally capable of assuming a leadership role

If we still don’t get it then the joke is on us because we’re no different than those horrible men we saw in the documentary.