I want to share something that happened to me recently, and upset me greatly.
These guys harassed me at Khunjrab Pass two days ago. They followed me asking me to take a photo with them. They actually blocked my path and would not let me pass. They positioned themselves around me and took photos so I would be in the photos. They said things like ‘le le aik tasveer, acha feel karay gi’ after I repeatedly said no and kept trying to get away from them.
They said ‘she can’t do anything’. I was so helpless even in so public a place, I truly felt as if I could not do anything. My trip to the Khunjrab pass will forever be coloured by the experience I had because of these horrible human beings.
It was broad day light, there were hundreds of people around, and I had gotten separated from my group. I hadn’t considered that this public place was unsafe for me. The Boy (my husband) had gone to climb a mountain on his own, towards a glacier, and I went to look for him while our group waited. I was actually in full sight of my friends through all of this. There were families, women, children – atleast 600 people around me, and yet no one intervened.
I finally completely lost my cool and started screaming at the top of my lungs. I don’t exactly remember what I said. Something along the lines of ‘I’ve been saying NO, don’t you guys understand?!!’. That’s when the men walked away, still laughing and singing ‘Lahore Lahore aey’. I burst into tears and almost ran back to my friends.
On the way back to Hunza I saw these men again at Sost. Actually, they saw me and started whispering, sniggering and poking each other, pointing at me. I took out my phone and started taking photos of their faces. That’s when they were actually embarrassed and started trying to hide from the camera.
Anyway, I’m sharing this here because this photo I took was my only ‘defence’. Because I was truly helpless and could not do a single thing to fight back. Also in case anyone is wondering, I was only able to take this photo when my husband and travel group were with me.
What I really want is to plaster their faces across Lahore. I want their classmates and professors and colleagues and friends and family members to know what sort of humans they are. And I want them to know ‘what happens on vacation’ does NOT stay there. Especially if it’s blatant harassment of another human being.
And in case anyone is wondering, I was wearing a humongous black down jacket. It was snowing there, and extremely cold.
This wasn’t the only bit of harassment that happened there. This was just the most extreme. There was a car with 5 men who drove slowly next to me as I walked towards where I saw my husband. To avoid them I ducked behind parked cars. All around us men were openly photographing women and making videos of women, commenting on them, singing songs. One young man sat on the road to take a full length DSLR shot. WHY?! The internet is FULL of photos of women of all kind in all sorts of – outfits. WHY do you want bad quality photos of random strange women on the streets? And this wasn’t happening only to me. This was happening to pretty much every woman there. No matter what age.
I’m really not victim material. I’m outspoken and proud of it, and I’m mostly quite able to take care of myself. I think this shook me because it was so blatant, so unashamed. And it made me feel absolutely helpless.
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