As a country, we have been blessed by local musicians as well as platforms like Coke Studio and Nescafé Basement etc., who have broadened our music horizons within our own community. This on its own, stands as an impressive initiative, and when musicians from other countries come to perform here, the hype skyrockets to another level. There is no doubt that hosting globally acclaimed artists makes us feel appreciated as Pakistanis, and citizens want to use that opportunity to do something different with their time. We save money, book tickets in advance, go through the hassle of gathering our friends, and finally, leave it to the event managers, security, and organizers to take responsibility and give us the platform to enjoy ourselves.
About a week ago, the fourth edition of the EDM festival, Solis took place in Islamabad. Powered by Full Circle and Mountain Dew, Solis gives international artists like FDVM and Dannic opportunities to perform in Pakistan, and of course, that is exciting. Unfortunately, the high hopes of a fun evening that many people carried with them to Solis, very quickly became traumatic experiences. There isn’t just one finger to point at, so who do we hold accountable?
After paying Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 per ticket, one would expect tight security. You would expect that someone would catch fake tickets, restrict gate crashers to enter, make sure the structural integrity of the venue (stage, VIP platform) is intact, and ensure full security for everyone at the event. This was not the case. A mob of thousands entered with fake tickets, or no tickets at all. The seven feet high VIP stage collapsed crushing boys and girls underneath it, leaving them unconscious or in the hospital with severe bruises and injuries. People were barbarically breaking the stages, destroying enclosures and constantly causing havoc. Worst of all, many girls were consistently harassed, stamped upon, sexually assaulted, groped, cornered, spat on, robbed and harassed while in a state of unconsciousness.
The event managers, the PR company and the people in charge of Solis itself have released rather problematic, deflective statements.
As reported by several social media users at the event, the DJs did not stop playing and it seemed like the ‘important’ people behind the scenes fled in private groups, avoiding all that was taking place right in front of them. Solis posted that despite the tragic occurrences at the event, “they will be back”; but what they fail to realize is, they have stripped the trust of anyone who went to their festival, or anyone who planned on attending it in the future, – so how can they bounce back? The managers failed to provide any security from the get go. They could not tell fake tickets apart from the real ones, and could not see a clear difference in the amount of people who gatecrashed, adding to the number of people that the event was made for.
More importantly, the victims want justice, they want an apology, and instead, they have to read posts on how a ‘difficult decision’ had to be made to stop the event. In this high security, red zone area, where the event took place, security should have halted everything immediately, been efficient in handling the entire situation, announcements should have been made and bouncers should have surrounded the enclosure. Emergency services should have been called, and the organizers should have been present on the scene throughout. The least they could have done, was handled the situation in a better way…
Patriarchy and Rape Culture
The existing system of patriarchy in our heavily gendered society always comes back to victim blaming. When women from the event shared their experiences from the festival, they were met with horrible comments about how they should have dressed differently, not have been there in the first place and not attended a ‘haraam’, indecent music event. It is already extremely difficult for girls to go out alone in public without feeling like they are a target for most men. Unfortunately, we have to rely on friends and family to protect us from other men, because that is the only way our society has somehow accepted it. An opportunity like Solis should have been a safe space for everyone.
Where do these moral values, what is haraam, and what is right or not, disappear when it comes to stealing, abusing, sexually assaulting? Where does it go when they see a woman lying on the ground begging for help? Women can not even dare to challenge the existing system because there has been no justice for them in it. The patriarchy and the society that cater to it criticize those women who even attempt to speak up. The outdated justice system has constantly failed them, their families hide behind shame and protect their so called honor, but no one addresses the issues as they should be addressed.
Who do we turn to when no one is willing to hear to hear us? Who do we turn to without getting mocked, then shut down? In our culture, when a girl speaks up she is deemed rude or ‘badtameez’. From a young age families teach their children not to speak out of turn; if even. We are constantly taught to have tough skin and brush all our problems under the rug, but somehow keep faith. So where should we go when we get taunted, harassed, assaulted, abused or raped? Where does that ‘piousness’ go when they are committing these crimes or defending it? Aren’t men supposed to keep their gazes lowered and not gawk at every woman who crosses them – no matter what she’s wearing?
Every conversation is considered a taboo, or unthinkable, and if no one speaks up, this corruption will keep manifesting in itself. All those in charge of our country (and most men), manipulate these values to their own benefit, leaving the rest of us with no worth and no say. Women are not an after thought to male problems. The people in charge should speak up and not turn a blind eye to incidents like these. Women are not second class citizens where men can relieve their frustration. We do not raise our voices for attention, we do not raise our voices to be dramatic. We raise our voices because we have one, and it should be for us to decide how we use it.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In this past week, there have been three rape cases of underage girls – and these are just the ones we know of. No media platform covers stories like these. Men are supposed to be our equals, and when they stop treating us like their inferior counterparts, and more like our allies, other men will also take these issues seriously and see them as problematic and utterly abhorrent. But we need people to speak up and address what is not being addressed. Misogynist ideas need to come to an end – women are not part of a sick fantasy living in a male dominated country. Progress can not be made if no one can be held accountable, progress cannot be made based on exploitation and abuse, progress can not be made if no one is talking about what’s important and what’s humane. These are signs of a regressive society, and we cannot call ourselves woke and cultured if no one takes responsibility and no one with any power speaks up.
With Aurat March approaching, we can only hope that people open their minds to the possibility of a better society, to the possibility that women are as much human (if not more), than the men who have no moral compass and commit these heinous crimes. We can only hope that women get taken seriously, and justice prevails for all those girls and boys who have been abused and ill-treated. This is the year for every voice to be heard!