About more than 80 percent of women in Pakistan face harassment every day that includes physical, verbal and sexual harassment whether it is at the workplace or at a public place or at home. Yet, this reality has been ignored and rejected for long. However, the recent worldwide campaign of ‘Me Too’ has sparked a more vigorous debate on it. The “Me Too” seems to have impacted Pakistan as well, we see that victims are fearlessly opening up about their sufferings through different platforms with social media in the lead. But, as expected, the response to it is extremely discouraging and unhealthy. In the recent years, the subject of harassment has witnessed a strange transition. It has crawled out of the ‘taboo’ zone and landed in the ‘where is the proof of harassment’ zone and while it is a relief that the shame attached to it has dispelled considerably, sadly, victim-blaming has worsened. In the latest trend of victim-blaming, the blame comes in two ways. One: where is the proof of harassment? Two: the physical appearance of the victim. If a woman has no proof of harassment, she is declared a liar and an attention seeker. If a woman is not pretty, she is just being vengeful and frustrated because no man likes to harass a ‘not-so-pretty’ woman. While coming across a lot of stories, I was reminded of my own experiences of harassment which I never talked about because just like other girls I was told to hush up. The first time I faced (sexual) harassment was in the street by a stranger. I don’t remember my age. All I remember is that I was quite young, too young to anticipate a bad touch but old enough to feel and understand it. One afternoon, a tall dark man with a small beard came with a medium-scale (moveable) Ferris Wheel to give rides to the kids playing in the street. We took money from our parents and gathered around the wheel and waited for the ride. While lifting me up, the man carefully, purposefully and firmly placed both his hands on my maturing bosom and grabbed them fully. I still remember his face, I still remember that touch and I still remember that feeling. It’s all still fresh. Now if someone would ask me, I have no proof of it. About more than 80 percent of women in Pakistan face harassment every day that includes physical, verbal and sexual harassment whether it is at the workplace, a public place or at home The latest incident of harassment I faced was at the workplace. It spanned months-long constant and deliberate staring by a colleague. I tried everything. Staring back. Ignoring. I even tried becoming immune to the suffocation I was subjected to. But nothing worked. I decided many times, to go up to him and confront him but failed. I feared creating a scene. l feared he might behave inappropriately and accuse me in return of something atrocious to hide his own guilt. Above all, I had no evidence of it. However, I had, had enough. So, I went to his room and asked him why does he stare at me all day? The answer shocked me: “It must be your misconception, there is no reality to it”. He shamelessly refused to own up to his behaviour and further added to the insult by passing it as my own misconception. Now if someone asked me for proof, I have none. Harassment is an inseparable part of a woman’s life. Since childhood, women are accustomed to putting up with harassment of all sorts. In a society that bears a rich history of victim-blaming, it is an act of sheer courage for a woman to speak up. No woman talks about harassment with joy especially knowing the consequences. She knows that she will be abused, called a liar and worse and have the legitimacy of her revelations interrogated. This tradition and approach of victim-blaming is also the biggest impediment in the implementation of laws related to harassment and makes it difficult for women to get justice. Moreover, some people try to weaken the cause by saying that some women use harassment to level false accusations. There might be such cases but they are 1 in a 1000, so for 1000 women harassed only one might be fabricating the story. We must understand that there is a difference between ‘exploitation of a term’ and ‘a norm, a tradition, a mindset, a behaviour, a habit, a practice, a reality’. The roots of harassment, in fact, any kind of discrimination and violence against women lie in an ingrained belief of men that they have a right over women; their bodies, their emotions, their privacy and their lives. Moreover, if the men’s baseless demands are denied, a woman is subjected to abuse and worse; being burnt alive or shot down for not obeying and refusing to accept unwanted advances. This rottenness is a product of the forever-existing misogyny and patriarchal system in which men are brought up with a sense of superiority and sense of entitlement from childhood. Silence is the first barrier to be crossed for any kind of change to take place. It will take time to detoxify the society filled with centuries-old decay, and for a whole generation to unlearn the wrong so carefully taught to them. However, there is change in the air, women are starting to speak up, they have zero tolerance towards any form of harassment. There is a unanimous scream now that no, there is no proof, not every time, not when they are ogled in the markets and parks, groped in the buses, pawed in the streets; and no, their looks, their clothes and their exterior does not make harassment legal because there is no justification and no criteria for harassment. Women have understood that silence will only encourage predators to continue undeterred. While women are battling this menace, let us hope that men will accept its existence and do their part also to eradicate this evil from society. The author is a freelance writer based in Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, September 16th 2018.