By: Mahwash Badar
They call us independent, free nations. Pakistan and India, after 60 odd years of being ruled by the white man, have been unable to break free of one acute problem: the white woman.
Whether it is by selling our lovely brown women fairness creams and coloured lenses or by introducing at least one beautiful American/British girl into the storyline of your favourite drama/movie, the focus on the white woman is taking a slightly grotesque turn.
The line between fascination and obsession is smudged as I go through the account of a CNN report where a female student from the University of Chicago talks about being groped and harassed during her few months in India. She explains how she was stared at, photographed, stalked, and how her experiences landed her in a psych ward for two weeks. Her roommate even escaped a rape attempt.
My snap response to reading that piece was horror. If an average American/British/Caucasian woman has the misfortune of having the curiosity of discovering India, she should do so with a chastity belt or under a burqa, if need be, because she is going to be stared at. She is going to be stalked. She is going to be followed. She is going to have to grow a thicker skin. She is going to have to understand that had she been a white man, she would not have to fear the drool on anyone’s lips.
In 2004, an Australian woman was murdered and raped in India. White women have been bringing this issue to attention and India’s sexual harassment problem has reached a point where it needs to be addressed, not just for local women but for any woman who wants to pay India a visit. The real problem is that India is not safe for women, period.
And like our boundaries, Pakistan also shares India’s ugly fascination for gori chamri (white skin). You can use a white girl to sell anything in this part of the world. The root cause of such pathetic obsessions can be explained by either a subservient mindset or a love for our former colonial masters, which we will probably take another few decades to get over. It could also be quite simply explained with the rampant problem of sexism and objectifying women.
Any culture, subculture or social structure that objectifies women, the way Indo-Pak cinema and society does, cannot be too far away from such crimes against women. Once an actresses crosses the tender age of ‘appearing in her twenties’ she is shelved. Men pick on women because society itself gives carte blanche to such atrocious behaviour. We institutionalise violence against women (marital rape is still not considered a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code) and propagate it by making women objects of a man’s lust and not his respect.
We are a society (this includes both India and Pakistan) which considers women inferior and powerless, having lesser brains and even lesser strength and having a lower stature. This is probably why a 23-year-old woman was raped repeatedly by five men in Mumbai recently.