We’re living through the worst pandemic that we’ve ever witnessed in our lives–with over 3 million infected and around 2 lakh people dead. Thankfully, scientists across the world are working round the clock to ensure that there’s a cure to fight COVID-19 soon. But while coronavirus will possibly end, it seems like misogyny still has a long way to go.
As if it wasn’t hard enough to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of dealing with the deadly virus, a cleric from Pakistan has blamed ‘women who dress scantily’ for spreading coronavirus, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
News agency Asian News International reported that Maulana Tariq Jameel, a popular cleric, also said that the coronavirus pandemic has been unleashed on humanity because of lies, deceit and dishonesty of people. Ironically, he made these statements during a telethon to raise funds for victims of COVID-19. What’s worse is that he made such comments in the presence of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, who also attended the event.
The cleric spoke for nearly an hour during the event, and said that the goal was not to fight against the coronavirus pandemic but to ‘be humble in front of God’. “Who has torn honour to pieces in my country? Who makes my country’s daughters dance? Who is asking them to wear skimpier clothes? Whom should I hold accountable for this sin?” he said.
“I seek forgiveness from Allah that I could not make my community understand. When a Muslim’s daughter chooses the path of indecency and the youth chooses vulgarity… The biggest curse of God was on the people of Lut as they crossed all boundaries of indecency and were cursed five times,” he added.
But while their Prime Minister stayed mum on the cleric’s comments, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called him out for these misogynistic comments. “HRCP is appalled at Maulana Tariq Jamil’s recent statement inexplicably correlating women’s ‘modesty’ to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such blatant objectification is unacceptable and, when aired on public television, only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society,” the commission tweeted.
Pakistan’s widely-read newspaper, Dawn, also slammed the cleric, saying that it is a “shame” that the cleric was not corrected when he made these offensive comments.
HRCP is appalled at Maulana #TariqJamil's recent statement inexplicably correlating women's 'modesty' to the #Covid19 pandemic. Such blatant objectification is unacceptable and, when aired on public television, only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society.— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) April 24, 2020
The mistreatment of women in Pakistan has often made headlines in the past. With the lockdown forcing women to stay indoors for extended periods of time with their oppressors, several countries, including India, have noted a sharp rise in cases of domestic violence.
Nida Aly, director of Lahore’s Asma Jahangir Legal Aid cell, said Pakistan had seen a rise in the cases of violence against women, and extreme situations, including honour crimes, domestic violence, assault and abuse of women. She said while women under lockdown needed security from the community, “the government ‘trotted out Tariq Jameel on a broadly televised programme who not just objectified women but declared them and their individualist actions to bring the wrath of God and punishment in the form of COVID-19.”
It is extremely infuriating to see that even during the time of a global crisis, women are still being subjected to abuse, oppression and misogyny. Sitting in our homes we can only hope that during such times, governments should take additional measures to ensure the safety of women, instead of keeping mum about their abuse. We hope non-government organisations, as well as influential people in Pakistan, will step up and speak out against such crimes.
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