Over the weekend, Fatema Sohail, wife of popular actor/musician Mohsin Abbas Haider, accused him on social media of domestic violence while she was pregnant. As the news broke over social media celebrities & politicians began to condemned the violence that was allegedly carried out.
This reaction was paralleled by outraged social media posts from others in the entertainment industry.
The war of words between Mohsin and Fatema Sohail will play out in the days to come. With Mohsin Abbas Haider responding promptly defending his stance and circumstances, the social media community already has a press conference to mull over.
In the meantime, Mohsin’s Instagram followers have crept up sneakily overnight from 514K to 516K – literally. Yes, that’s correct. Perhaps some of them have followed the star just to make sure they stay up to date with the “trending” news. But that’s that as far as “that” is concerned.
Was Fatema Sohail To Blame?
As we digest the news and its after effects, let’s take a moment to contemplate what this means in the bigger picture for the women in Pakistan.
Domestic Violence against women is recorded at around 20-30% in Pakistan. Keeping this figure in mind, 3 out of 10 women suffer some form of violence at the hands of husbands, inlaws or other household members. This is not a new statistic. We are aware of domestic abuse and many NGOs in Pakistan are working to fight it.
Domestic violence is prevalent in Pakistan. However, when a celebrity is involved, the issue takes on a bigger story. By default, more awareness is created about the issue, and more people start talking about it. Unfortunately, if the same had happened, and does happen, with many common women who walk the streets of Pakistan, or those belonging to the ‘privileged’ classes as well, and THEY posted their abuse on social media, chances are, that no one will listen. No one will come out to condemn the perpetrator or support the cause.
Domestic violence is not restricted to the deprived, the lesser privileged, the lower income, the less educated classes of Karachi. We cannot group this as a “class” problem. Domestic violence exists in all strata of society. Perhaps, in the upper classes, it is in fact, more widespread, Because, it remains hidden for the longest time. The social backlash of exposing the truth has multiple repercussions, and the victim will keep quiet about it, till -as they say in Urdu – It’s too late, or nearly too late to do anything.
What does it take for a woman to finally ‘come out’ with the truth? Have we failed our women? Why can’t they speak up sooner? What is it in our upbringing that doesn’t give enough courage or self confidence to women to speak up about the most basic of harassment. One that even bears physical evidence (unlike other forms, that can be mental or verbal).
A Pressing Need For Implementation Of Policies Against Domestic Violence
Finally, as we contemplate the ramifications of the allegations made by Fatema Sohail against Mohsin Abbas Haider, we wonder – will this mean a change in the future for the hundreds of thousands of housewives and young girls who bear domestic violence in silence? Will it be the same for them, day after day and will nothing change? Or will it take many similar cases to come forth with their stories for change to come about.
As always, we attack the symptom, and not the root cause. Teach your sons to respect women and teach your girls to speak up. Till then, the battle will continue on social media, and perhaps,in court.