If you are a Pakistani, specifically a Pakistani woman, and more specifically a Pakistani woman who has not spent all her life living under an algae-covered pond in Karachi, you are no stranger to sexual harassment. Unlike many other things in Pakistan which affect only particular classes and certain ages; like diarrhoea affects you only if you are a kid with stunted growth sustained on polluted water, while rich socialites get obesity; sexual harassment is a phenomenon that knows no boundaries. You may be asked to give certain ‘favours’ if you are a high-ranking official in a multi-national, you may be wolf-whistled at as you walk down a lane in Saddar, and you may be pinched and groped when you travel in the so-called ‘laydiss’ compartment in public transport. Also, you may be called ‘nachney wali aurtein’ by a certain Sheikh Alauddin if you happen to be a female member of the National Assembly. So widespread are these practises that they become a vital component of everyday life, of stepping out of home, and we learn to live with them.
So widespread is this misogyny actually that it has become a part of the urban Pakistani culture. Poondi becomes a national sport, and in the same way that the victims of harassment are of all ages and classes, the perpetrators also transcend all confines of age and class. You get judged if you have covered yourself ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ by men you pass on the street. Young men, who may otherwise be liberal, jeans-wearing and BurgerKing-loving progressive males, or the paan-chewing moustachioed men in their 50s. If ever any discussion about the harassment takes place at homes or on TV, we are told in hushed whispers by our family, or in raucous tones by breathless morning show hosts, to ignore the perpetrators, that morally strong women do not let themselves be affected by these petty issues. Little is done to educate the men, to tell them to lower their gaze and treat the woman on street more as a person and less as a showpiece whose purpose is to adorn the roads with her presence.
Now this is where Kachee Goliyan steps in.
If you are a Pakistani or Indian with even a minuscule presence on the internet, you will be aware of KG and its comics. Touted as Pakistan’s first mass-produced comics, they feature characters that are not stick figures or badly drawn silhouettes on MS Paint. The comics usually show JC and Sufi (with Sufi sporting infinitely cool cross tits) dealing with life in Pakistan. KG has cultivated its reputation as an entertaining, sarcastic and sharp-witted comic creating entity. However, its new campaign against sexual harassment shows that it is an entertaining, sarcastic and sharp-witted comic creating entity which is socially responsible and not afraid to take a stand.
The campaign is first of its kind, both in the fact that it is done as a 7 part graphic series, and also because the comics address men and seek to educate them about harassment and their part in it. The uniqueness of this series is expressed in the tagline that KG has used, ‘Wat’re U doing, MAN?’. The focus is on ‘U’, thus shifting the focus upon men and calling upon them to take responsibility of this abhorrence.
Two parts of the series have been posted online on KG’s Facebook page. The first one demonstrates to men that sexual harassment is very much of a reality, with the victims being their sisters, daughters and wives.
The second one deals with and discards the popular myth that when women cover themselves sufficiently, go out less, sexual harassment will cease. The caption reads,
”For every parent, guardian and someone responsible for a male, it’s your job to make sure he knows how to treat a woman well. We, as a society, spend so much time trying to protect females by scaring them of the consequences of them getting “impure”, that we not only miss the fact that males need as much scaring and discipling when it comes to sexual harassment, but also make way for the hell that a girl has to go through when she can’t speak about what’s being done wrong to her.
KG Comics must be appreciated for their ballsy effort at bringing this issue into public debate. One can only hope that with the overwhelming support that KG has, it will be successful in educating the masses. What you as a reader can do is to go like their Facebook page (if you already haven’t) and show your support for the campaign by propagating it on Facebook, Twitter, your blogs or just talk about the campaign with your family and friends.