Noor's killer has been found guilty but society continues to get off scot-free for the way it treats women

Published 25 Feb, 2022 11:48am

When will Noor Mukadam and all the other women like her get apologies for society's slander and character assassination?

Today, Pakistan's women are somewhat at ease after a court declared Zahir Jaffer guilty of killing Noor Mukadam.

We say somewhat because as they reflect on the horrific murder and the subsequent trial of her killer, they remember more than the verdict announced yesterday; they also recall the vitriol and mudslinging over the last seven months.

Today, when women in Pakistan want justice for acts of violence committed against them, they will remember what Noor Mukadam's family went through. What her parents had to hear in the name of the culprit's defence. What her sister had to read on social media. What her brother heard people say about her on TV.

Noor Mukadam drew a lot of support, but she also invoked the questionable morals of the Pakistani internet, who love to speculate, theorise and slander. "Why did she go to his house? Why did she lie to her parents? Why did she know him? Why did she associate with men?"

The real question of why did he kill her, that too in such a brazen and brutal way, was often buried beneath these queries.

Cases like Noor's can stir society's morals in the worst possible way. Instead of the obvious takeaway that women need safer spaces and be allowed the right to live, society attacks the woman's character. The victim, it says, must be at fault for what happened to her, regardless of the fact that she was a victim.

"She allowed herself to become a victim because of her choices."

But what of the perpetrator's choices that led him to kill and rape? That's left to the court of law. A women's trial starts much before, in the eyes of the public.

Society's conscience only kicks in once a woman is perceived to have done something 'wrong'.

That is what happened with Noor Mukadam, Qandeel Baloch, the motorway rape survivor, the Minar-e-Pakistan assault survivor and countless others. Every action or word they have ever spoken is highlighted, dissected and then assigned nefarious (and often false) motives. Their pictures and videos are distributed freely, their right to privacy gone in a heartbeat. Their lives become fodder for public consumption and in the process, everyone seems to forget that they're human.

Our society's hatred of women is glaringly obvious, especially when it continually pushes the narrative that the woman somehow brought violence upon herself. Our leaders have perpetuated this stance and so have those wearing the uniform who are supposed to protect, not attack.

Then there are the social media warriors — men and women — who want to lecture the families on what they should have done "to prevent the murder/rape/kidnapping" as opposed to saying "we're sorry for your loss/your pain/this society". Ripping apart her character, as if she were a fictional creation in a novel or TV show, has more of an impact than those faceless online commenters realise. It tells the women of Pakistan that if they report violence, they and their families will go through the same ordeal.

There is a lot wrong with a society that turns so hatefully on these women and their families for daring to report violence against them.

With the verdict in, we can only hope it brings some peace to Noor's family and loves ones, who had to endure TV channels shamelessly running the CCTV footage of her trying to escape her captor or social media digging out photos and videos from her past to prove that she knew Zahir.

The victory is marred with the name calling, the character assassination and abuse that Noor and countless others like her have had to undergo. Noor may be gone, but her family and friends had to listen to lies, rumours and falsehoods about her. So did the rest of the women in Pakistan. And for them, it bears a warning — seek justice at the risk of having your life torn apart.