—Trigger warning: The following story contains accounts of sexual assault
Over the weekend, reports of a stage mishap, as well as incidents of harassment and sexual assault, surfaced at Solis Festival held in Islamabad, prompting people to share their own horrifying experiences of sexual violence on social media.
One woman said gatecrashers had overrun a Noori concert that she attended during her teenage years. They “destroyed property and harassed women” but her male friends “formed a circle around us until police could disperse the crowd”.
The incident “was terrifying and fully opened my eyes to how men delight in terrorising women, for them it’s like a sport” and “opened my eyes to how men consider women sub-human unless they’re connected to other men”.
‘Unlike other girls’
Another woman shared multiple incidents from when she was aged 15, 17, and 19. She consequently stopped going to melas and concerts, she added.
“At 19, a teacher put his hand on my lap, said I was ‘smart, unlike other girls’,” she explained of one harassment incident.
‘Free for alls’
A young activist spoke of sexual misconduct first at a concert in Morocco after which she said she “showered” and then at the women’s only ticket line at a concert by Asim Azhar.
“Men consider public gatherings sexual free for alls,” she said. “When I got home, I cried on my mom’s shoulder for a long time.”
‘Bet on me’
“The first time I was groped was when I was 15 walking behind my mother and a bunch of boys had a bet on me,” another woman shared.
She said the rest of the gang of boys laughed after one of them “groped” her. “I showered multiple times & still shudder when I sense someone walking behind me,” she wrote.
‘Save my sister’
A woman in Lahore said she was assaulted when she was 12 years old.
“The first time I was groped I was 12, my sister was 2 and we were playing in the street. The only instinct I had time was to save my sister. Idk how I picked up my sister and ran back to home. It was terrible,” she said.
One woman said she was “groped the first time when I was only 9. NINE”.
She said the assault occurred at a family festival.
‘Older stranger man’
Yet another woman narrated the multiple times she was sexually assaulted.
“The first time I was groped I was 13 walking with my mother in a bazaar, the second time in a 5 star hotel when I was 16 at chand raat by various hands in a crowd, sexually abused at 10 & touched inappropriately by a much older stranger man when I was 11 playing in a street,” she said. “Oh there’s so much more.”
A young activist added his own account of sexual assault, saying he could not “even imagine what Pakistani women have to go through in public spaces”.
“Men/ boys themselves aren’t safe from groping & other forms of sexual violence in Pakistan,” he added. “I’ve been inappropriately touched a lot of times in public buses as a teen to a young man even nearly raped.”
He recounted three of many horrific incidents, one when he was 14, then at 16, at 21, and even at 25.
“I can go on & on with how unsafe is Pakistan for women & men. The trauma of such acts of sexual violence lives on for a long time, its about time they are taken seriously. Protect us!”
As one of the social media users put it, the question remains: “Who’s going to answer for this?”