Thousands of women across the world, including Pakistan, have put up a brave front against sexual attack and workplace harassment in a huge and important precedent set by a powerful hashtag on social media.
The hashtag, “MeToo”, translated into a viral movement on October 17 as an increasing number of posts started to appear on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, after Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano posted a screenshot on Twitter calling upon women to speak up “If you’ve been sexually Harassed or attacked write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet”.
The movement comes days after Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of rape and sexual attack by some A-list actresses.
Unlike previous events when campaign against sexual attack had little effect in Pakistan, the “MeToo” lobby gained in an upsetting and surprising way high attraction in the country. Women from all walks of life took to social media to admit they had suffered too and recently its Meesha Shafi allegations Ali Zafar.
Nighat Dad, a lawyer and digital rights activist, tweeted,
#MeToo Huge numbers of times! First sexual attack happened when I was in grade one. Still remembers, each and every bit of it.”
In a societal set-up where women are faced with harsh criticism for having experienced instances of unwanted sexual advances, the movement has, in fact, brought out the importance and universality of the matter.
Journalist Reham Khan regretted the country’s treatment of Harassment discourse in a tweet on her official account:
In Pakistan women will not be believed if they talk about harassment. Their own family & in-laws will blame them instead.”
Over the last few years, efforts against sexual Harrasment ended in the enactment of the landmark Protection Against sexual harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 but given the cultural barriers that restrict harassment discourse, victims have remained tight-lipped for too long.
Echoing the worry and depression of having remained voiceless even though there is the existence of being a victim, Lahore-based actress Nadia Jamil joined the movement and tweeted on her official account:
I was too young when it first happened. It went on too long. Too much anger. Too much violence. Too much hurt. Too much silence. So over. #MeToo.
Journalist Rabia Mehmood expressed almost the same views in her contribution to the online movement:
#MeToo. As a child and as an adult. Took me hours and whatsapp/fb discussion kind words from friends to be able to post this. Still not easy.
The hashtag, which was among the top trend on Twitter for three days in a row, also saw widespread extreme anger on other social media platform.
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or attacked wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the importance of the problem. My timeline is already full of people who shared this.
classical dancer and women rights activist Sheema Kermani posted on her Facebook page.
Although it is too early to evaluate whether the online movement would produce a permanent solution to the grave issue, women have supported MeToo as a ‘monumental’ slap on their attacker’s.