KARACHI: Last week, Aurat March, Women Democratic Front, and various other feminist organizations arranged a protest against the recent motorway rape incident that shook the whole nation to its core. This protest took place on the 12th of September. Celebrities also protested a few days later. But instead of receiving praise for taking a stand on the issue, most actors were criticized on social media. So, what happened?
Showing their support for the survivor of the motorway incident, a number of celebrities took to the Karachi Press Club to stand in solidarity with rape victims/survivors. Frieha Altaf, who encouraged a number of her peers such as, Sarwat Gilani, Ali Rehman Khan, Mahira Khan, Yasir Hussain, and Adnan Siddiqui to protest on the 14th, said, “It saddens me, it angers me to have to raise my voice against such barbaric incidents.”
These celebrities had Mahira Khan highlighting rape culture and the patriarchal mindsets that allow or encourage it.
The celebrity protest, however, has been criticized by a number of people for being exclusive, as well as for sabotaging an originally planned protest by the transgender communities and activists for 14th September.
Various voices on social media have posed the question as to why these celebrities did not participate in the protest organized on the 12th of September.
Muhammad Moiz, better known as Ms. P Chatni, took to his Facebook to express his displeasure on the way the protest was taken over by these celebrities. Moiz highlighted in his video that the stars remained aloof from the trans community protesting alongside and also took away all the limelight in terms of media coverage. He stated that none of these celebrities joined the trans activists during the protest or actively spoke for the rape/harassment and mistreatment they face as a community. They were all fighting for the same cause, but celebrities chose to remain distant.
Co-founder of Queeristan, Aradhiya Khan Jack spoke to Cutacut and revealed how trans activists like herself were asked to “please wrap it up.”
A transgender activist who organized the protest, Sarah Gill said, “It was very heartbreaking for us to see that those celebrities who we thought are working for human rights and believe in equality were just putting forth a drama in real life. Of course, the media will cover Mahira (Khan). I’m not against them receiving coverage, but why did they not join us?”
Sarah Gill lamented on the way nobody lent a helping hand or a voice. Nobody asked the community to talk to them about their struggles. “They were just there to show people on Instagram that they were there. If they came for us, they should have at least stood with us.”
Frieha Altaf was herself unavailable for comment. Her PR told Cutacut, “Media fraternity came out together for a protest at Karachi Press Club for the safety of all women and children and some other protest was also happening at the same time. We don’t know why people are raising this issue and comparing one protest to the other.”
Moiz showed his distaste to the fact that there was zero solidarity. There were a number of students from Dow medical college and hundreds of transgenders protesting for the same cause as the celebrities present on the occasion. “You had the power and the media attention, bring them in. A harmless 65-year-old trans woman is missing for the past two and a half months but recovering a trans person is not a top priority for our local police.”
“If you are so concerned about rape, what practical action have you taken to make the media industry a safe space for women? What mechanisms have you put in place to ensure a young girl from Gujranwala who comes to Karachi to be a model does not get raped and gets equal value and importance compared to the crowd you are currently swimming in? Is there a review body, if not a legislative one, that will review scripts or a female caucus that will unanimously refuse sexist content on television/media?” Moiz put forth some important questions.
“We need to be more inclusive. If we feel there is a gap, we need to sit and talk to sort it out,” said Aradhiya Khan Jack in conclusion.