The recent onslaught of #MeToo and misuse of #MeToo on Twitter Pakistan has sparked a sizzling debate. The discussion is not only full of hot air this time, but has credible substance as we now have one victim – a college teacher – dead, and another, (Filmmaker Jami), who is threatening to reveal the name of his rapist, and this time, it’s a man accusing a man. Add on to this, Ali Zafar’s latest tweet:
“… How many will speak up against the misuse of #Metoo. Who is responsible? “ and Mahira Khan’s final word on the matter, and we have the makings of a full blown debate, high end drama with viewer ratings for sure, and sequels to follow.
The latest tweet came with a trigger warning from Jami again:
“It’s simple if they push me around which he [accused] can easily then he should know that I have nothing to lose now,” Jami wrote. “I will spill moment by moment details of that day [of the incident]. From the lunch with his mother to doping to brutal details …”
“To keep saying afterwards to admit that I enjoyed it, to sitting in my car screaming crying in middle of Marriott road and other details which are etched on my DNA now. I don’t give up remember that. I never give up! Had enough!” the director concluded.
Amidst this limitless outpouring of anger and emotion, I wonder if the #MeToo kettle has boiled over, and the water has spilled leaving many ‘untouchable’ souls burnt.
When Meesha Shafi decided to accuse Ali Zafar of harassing her, little did she know that she would be speaking for a whole lot of men, and women who have been silent. The irony is, that though she has lost her case, and one will never know the truth in that one (since the out of court jury continues to pronounce a popular verdict), she seems to have given courage to many more to speak up.
But what she didn’t vouch for is, that the debate has shifted from the accused to the accuser. While Meesha might have empowered women to speak up and champion the cause, there has been cause to question if all those who accuse are innocent before the accused party is proven guilty. Meaning, do I become a rapist or harasser even before the court has pronounced judgment? And even if I am cleared of the blame, will the people’s court ever forgive me? Will my tarnished image ever be redeemed? And will the accuser roam freely, with a clean image, whether the accusation is true or false?
One tweet reflects the misuse of #MeToo:
A lecturer refused to give extra marks to his female student, & he was accused of false harassment, which resulted in tarnishing his reputation, his wife left him & he allegedly committed suicide leaving this note, now how many will speak up against the misuse of #MeToo?
In the words of late College lecturer Muhammad Afzal (a victim of the misuse of #MeToo?
I will always be considered as a person of bad moral character… I feel pain in my heart and brain all the time… If and when I die, I request you as a friend, to give my salary to my mother and she is given a good character certificate in my name from the college principal …I beg you to get my name and reputation at the college cleared.
And lastly, before he died: I leave this matter in the court of Allah. The police are requested not to investigate and bother anybody. Muhammad Afzal. English Lecturer, Govt. MAO College, Lahore
The above incidents open up a Pandora’s box of issues we must tackle as a society, and they are huge by any standards:
1. The nature of sexual harassment is such that it is very hard to prove or disprove. Either way. Whether I, the accuser is speaking the truth, or you, the accused is denying the truth? These incidents usually occur behind closed doors (for a reason) and the culprit and victim both, rarely if ever have any witnesses.
Case in point:
“Why I’m so strongly supporting #metoo ? cuz i know exactly how it happens now, inside a room then outside courts inside courts and how a survivor hides confides cuz i was brutally raped by a very powerful person in our media world. A Giant actually. and yes im taller than him but…” – Jami
2. The incidence of women being sexually abused is by far higher than men. This makes it easier for women to be the wronged party – whether the accusation is false or true remains to be seen, but for every man who is sexually abused, there will be at least 100 women. Hence the backlash from the women who feel that: ‘Why the hue and cry about a handful of male victims as opposed to so many female victims?’ The numbers speak for themselves they say, the writing is on the wall.
It is fair to say also though, that the number of men who will speak up about being sexually harassed (due to our societal taboos, which is barely dealing with female victims coming out), will be much lower. meaning there are more unreported cases of male abuse always, in our society. I’m not even speaking of children who have no voice. Case in point: Kasur.
3. #MeToo does not absolve any human being, male or female, from laying false accusations.
As one former college student stated:
It was very normal for females to accuse male students of harassment if they wanted to extract revenge. The college policy was simple: The accused was expelled.
4. The #MeToo movement has also thrown light on male victims. As filmmaker Jami’s successive tweets have shown, males are vulnerable to being raped and sexually harassed too. We don’t know the real story but ‘innocent until proven guilty’ might not stand the test of Twitter wars, where the fate, and guilt of both parties will be decided before the courts can pass judgment.
If the public has to pronounce us innocent or guilty, it will. But one thing’s for sure, they will not wait for the courts to give their verdict.
In which case, let’s take a long hard look at ourselves. Are we, the third party to blame? Should we not stand by and let the courts rule before we tweet and post our position for the aggrieved parties? I know it’s hard when we totally believe our friend, or sister, or husband have been wronged, but perhaps public shaming and naming can be left out of the equation.
And M. Jibran Nasir sums it up for us. Perhaps his background in law can help us out here:
If someone has to die to prove their innocence then we’ve failed as a society. Life of the victim is ruined when we suppress allegations but we also ruin life of the accused with false allegations. This should teach us to be cautious not ignore harrassment cases #JusticeForAfzal
As a human, we have a responsibility to behave like one. At least till the matter is settled in the courts. As accusers and accused, it makes sense too, to let the courts decide before we come out on Twitter. We are using our influencer power to implicate another – falsely or rightfully – no one knows. As Muhammad Afzal said in his last letter – I leave this matter to Allah. How many more will be writing these last lines? Death should never be the answer.
The million-dollar question is: How do we make our justice foolproof, our systems hack-proof, so that no one can accuse the other wrongly, and no one will be in a position to be accused?
Simple, said one FB user Sadia Babar:
” … If the movement is a farce; stop raping/ harassing women and it’ll all end. On its own. That’s how it works; if you’d like to give it a shot.
A perfect world indeed. Perhaps Mahira Khan has posed a question for which we will struggle to find answers:
“It angers me that an innocent man would kill himself because of wrongly being accused and it boils my blood that another can roam around free after raping someone. Whether you misuse the #metoo movement or delay accountability on it, the result is the same – death.”
Hard questions to answer but at least – the conversations have begun.