Assma Gulata poses for a photo outside the famous Masjid Wazir Khan in Lahore. Twitter photo
Tariq Butt / Staff Reporter
A Canadian model and humanitarian worker, Assma Gulata, has registered with police a case against two suspects for alleged sexual harassment and infringement of her rights.
A first information report registered at the Sihala police station of Islamabad quoted the woman, identified as Lahore-based Assma Gulata, saying she was in Bahria Town when two men in a car began "harassing me, telling me to get into the car."
"When I told them to leave me alone, they started laughing. They blocked me from getting into my Uber and then followed my Uber from Bahria Town to Islamabad, trying to block the driver and even asking the driver for my drop-off location," she stated.
Because they were following her, she said, she had to change her drop-off location and hide in a nearby mall until she thought they had gone. "Then I went to my AirBnB," she said, adding that she had their vehicle details and a video of them as proof.
The suspects have been booked under Sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 511 (punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment), 354 (assault or use of criminal force to woman and stripping her of her clothes), and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.The woman complained that two motorists inquired about her address from the driver, adding that she was waiting for cab when two men pulled up in a car and started cat-calling her and repeatedly told her to get in their car. When she refused, they followed her for the next two hours as she travelled to the destination in Islamabad.
Assma, who's been living in Pakistan for the past five months has now released a video explaining what happened and says she was victim-blamed after the incident even though she was dressed "modestly" in a long sleeved kurta and long pants. It's unfortunate that she has to even mention these details because we all know, sexual harassment or assault has nothing to do with what you are or aren't wearing.
And Gulata reiterates that: "It's not just about me or my kids, it's about all my sisters, all these stories I hear from women who were sexually harassed or abused by men and it goes unreported because then they blame the woman. 'Why were you travelling alone?' 'Why were you not with a man?' 'Why was your hair not covered?' I'm sorry but I've had friends and followers, who were performing Umrah and Hajj, fully covered, wearing a loose abaya and they still got sexually harassed. Clearly, it's the men we need to hold accountable."
In a refreshing move, Gulata also acknowledges her privilege, sharing she knows that her voice was heard because she's an expat while many local women are silenced.
"When I shared this on social media, some followers told me that if I really wanted to push a report with the police, I'd have to go to the police station, which was an hour away and I would have to bribe them. I'm not going to bribe anyone to do their job, I'm sorry, no. Rather than writing a tabloid with a girl's face for a little gossip column, why aren't we discussing the issues people are suffering from in Pakistan?" she said.
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