A majority of men have displayed violent reactions to the slogan, “Mera Jism Meri Marzi,” which means to emphasize women’s bodily autonomy and break the unfair societal expectations and rigid values regarding them. Like all other slogans from the previous Aurat Marches(Khud Khana garam kar lou) this one has a cruel and bloody history of women being killed and abused due to “immodest” clothing (let’s not forget Qandeel Baloch) and cold food?!?
Our cultural norms demand that a woman who went through the trauma of being raped must be subjected to questions such as, “What were you wearing,” and “Why were you out that late,” which suggest that the woman influenced the rapist’s decision and have led to a norm of victim-blaming and shaming.
Unfortunately, also like most slogans (Lou Beth Gai Sahi se and Khud Kahan Garam ker Lou, indicating resistance against stereotypes), this one was taken widely out of context as an excuse to hurl abuses at women who dared to support it. It was completely ignored that women in Pakistan are rarely allowed to say no to their husbands, that reproductive health seems like a Utopian myth and birth control is forbidden. The slogan MERA JISM MERI MERZI (My Body, My Choice) stands for freedom of movement and association, but all of that was discarded.
#MeraJismMeriMarzi means opposing:
lack of healthcare
Opposing this statement means perpetuating a culture that produces all of the above.#khalilurrehmanqamar
— Nida Kirmani (@NidaKirmani) March 4, 2020
If you look at the tweets people have made in reply to the one above, you would be absolutely disgusted by the sheer audacity of men.
— Muzzammil Akram (@AkramMuzzammil) March 6, 2020
However, because men are given space online and on television, they don’t feel the need to censor their words. One such display was seen spreading through social media on wildfire when the famed director Khalil ur Rehman, known for making ridiculously sexist dramas (Mere Paas Tum Hou), meant to appeal to the general Pakistani misogynist hurled abuses at Marvi Sirmed, a feminist journalist and human rights and peace activist during an online talk. One of the most hideous things about the entire fiasco was;
a) When the talk show host was trying to quieten down Marvi
b) When Khalil ur Rehman verbally abused her by using the derogatory phrase, “Ullu ki pathi,” (which I can’t translate for you) among other things such as demanding she shut up.
c) When he asked her what was so likable about her body.
The last rings a bell, doesn’t it? It seems similar to Ali Zafar telling the media he had better-looking women, of a higher social status than Meesha Shafi to harass and with that logic, he was innocent because Meesha wasn’t worth it, but other women were. Khalil ur Rehman kept asking her the same question Tumhare jism mein hai kya (what is so likable about your body), as if it mattered.
What men in Pakistan don’t seem to get is that all of women’s actions are not tantamount to asking for male attention. Given the kind of male attention women in this country receive – catcalling, harassment, abuse, slut-shaming, eve-teasing – they would rather not have any at all.
You can find the interview above, but what is necessary today is to understand how unfortunately Khalil Ur Rehman is not an anomaly; he represents most of the male population in the media, and far too many in our homes, which is exactly why he will probably get away with abusing Marvi Sirmed on live television like Mr. Ali Zafar did.
If we look at the response of most people on Twitter, they seem to be supporting him in abusing women online, mostly because they do both behind their screens and in their daily interactions with women.
Khalil Ur Rehman is the reflection of men in our society; they will degrade women, abuse them and appear nonchalant with not an inkling of remorse in sight all the while talking about cultural norms, respect, upholding traditions and religious values in addition to what a woman should be.
— Shazer Khan (@shazar_khan3) March 4, 2020
How many women have to face infuriated men, yelling at them, insulting them for the mere sake of asserting their dominance? Almost all of them, by their fathers, relatives, teachers, random men on the street and all those who couldn’t take no for an answer.
Disregarding the entire point of the march, these men have proven to women that come hell or high water, they will refuse to acknowledge the life and liberty threatening issues and instead continue to use meaningless sentiments such as, “Islam gave you these rights 1400 years ago”.
— Zahid Hussain?? (@zahidsamadkhan) March 4, 2020
While that may or may not be true, they can’t deny the number of women who have been murdered or sold off like cattle when these very rights, such as inheritance or property rights are asserted. It’s unsurprising in a culture where women are punished for men’s crimes – revenge rape – punished for trying to make a life for themselves, forced to be married and bearing children at an age where they should be enrolled in school, the only thing men think of when “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” is brought up happens to be sex because they don’t see women as anything other than an object for their own sexual gratification.
There are millions of Khalil Ur Rehman’s living among us and nobody bats an eye.