Yesterday, a disturbing video of a Pakistani Woman being harassed on the streets has emerged on the internet.  The woman, clad in a beautiful, white dress that covered her full body, wore clothing adorned with Arabic calligraphy. These were merely decorative words like "beautiful" and "halwa," similar to countless other calligraphic garments. However, the situation quickly escalated when an individual on the street mistook the writing for sacred Quranic text.

How a vibrant attire to led to public outrage on Pakistani Streets’

The encounter quickly escalated beyond confusion. The woman was subjected to catcalling and harassment, accused of committing a "Gustakhi" (mistake) by wearing what was perceived as a sacred inscription.

In the video women can be seen running inside a restaurant to seek refuge from mob, which had the audacity to demand her to ‘remove’ the dress on the spot. 

Many people stood their frozen, as if their bodies were unable to move. No one came in front to help the distressed woman. 

Amid the chaos, a brave police inspector, ASP Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi, came forward to rescue the woman. Syeda asked crowd to ‘forgive’ her and assisted the women to safety. The woman wore a black burkha and covered her face with golden scarf while moving out of the crowded street in assistance with Syeda.

Syeda is a brave police officer of Gulbarg Lahore, who in another video clarified that woman, had innocently worn a printed Kurta and people on the streets decided to mix it with sacred sculptures. 

After the incident, the innocent woman asked for public apology, stating she was unaware that the dress would garn public outrage.

The bravery of the Syeda has caught a few eyes. Punjab Police, an Indian province state police, shared the video on ‘X’ recommending her for “Quaid-e-Azam Police Medal (QPM), the highest gallantry award for law enforcement in Pakistan".

The Police Missed the Entire Point:

While the actions of Inspector Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi in rescuing the woman are commendable, a crucial element of the incident remains unaddressed. The woman was innocent. Her dress was printed with simple words such as ‘beautiful woman’, for which she should not have been bashed by the public. 

Amidst the confusion of text being Quaranic texts, she should not been asked to seek public apology. She was not wrong for adorning beautiful attire. The focus of public and police on woman's apology highlights the larger issue of victim blaming that continues to plague societies around the world.

The Victim Blaming Mentality of the Society:

Our society most often struggle with the mentality of ‘victim blaming’, especially for woman, who are taught to dress, walk and even talk in a certain way to ‘protect’ themselves. Victim blaming occurs when individuals facing violence or harassment are held partially or fully responsible for their own victimization. In this case, even though the woman's clothing posed no threat and the inscription held no religious significance, she still apologized for wearing the dress.

Research suggests that more than 75% victims of sexual assault have experienced victim blaming. And shockingly, 74% of the victims have blamed themselves for these crimes. This not only encourages perpetuators to commit more crimes, but also refrain women from reporting such crimes in the first place.

In the light of recent incident, it's important to understand that no one deserves to be blamed for being a victim of any crime, no matter who they are or what happened.

The Mentality of Victim Blaming is Embedded in Our Thoughts:

The ingrained mentality of victim blaming stems largely from patriarchal societal structures that view women as subordinate to men. This unequal power structure fuels victim blaming and silences women’s experiences, placing blame on them instead of the perpetrators. 

Holding Perpetrators Accountable are Crucial for Putting an End to Victim Blaming:

The research from National Sexual Assault Hotline found out that less than 25% of the sexual assault cases are reported and out of these reported cases, only 3.6% cases lead to legal arrests. This study highlights the fear among of victim blaming in the victims, who is leading to underreporting of such crimes and decreased faith of people in the law enforcement systems. 

Journal of Interpersonal Violence conducted a study, which highlighted that areas which took prompt actions against such crimes noticed more reports on such crimes and reduced crime rates compared to areas which did not take prompt actions. It suggests that holding perpetrators accountable deters future crimes and empowers victims to seek justice. 

Furthermore, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrates that perpetrator accountability not only reduces recidivism but also discourages bystander inaction and encourages intervention.

So, changing the narrative of victim blaming goes beyond changing societal norms; we also need robust legislation systems which do not ask victims to seek apology, rather make the perpetuator seek apology from the victim. 

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