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I’ve gotten off my Dallas flight and I’m now about to board the plane to Sialkot. As I slip quickly into the seat between my two brothers, I can’t help but notice that I’m the only woman in my section of the plane surrounded by men. When I hear that the plane is about to land I begin to apply lipstick, but all of a sudden I realize I’m not the only one interested in my reflection so I put away the makeup and sit back, away from the glares, away from the stares.
As I am about to get ready for the drive to our small town near Gujrat, my uncles settle me into the car, in the middle seat where I can be away from the windows, away from the glares, away from the stares. As the eyes follow my heels stumbling in the street, I quicken my pace so I can get home, behind the doors, away from the glares, away from the stares.
It’s been about a week and it is time to go to the bazaar. I’m ready with my hijab on, my wallet in my hand, list ready, but all of a sudden I’m stopped. I’m handed an Abaya and a niqab and told to put it on, to hide my face, away from the glares, away from the stares. Wearing the Niqab was a great experience, but I didn’t like it at all because I wasn’t doing it for the sake of my lord, I was doing it so I wouldn’t be stared down.
My purpose of writing my experience is not to bore the reader with my journey, but to show them how every step of my journey in Pakistan consists of trying to avoid the stares and glares. The cheap looks that women in Pakistan are given cannot be stopped, but why should we women be scared?
Why do we make their stares normal, why do we allow them to do it only by putting on a Niqab? Why do we rest in fear and not do our everyday duties without worry? The extent of the gaze has gotten to the point where it cannot be prevented, but why should that stop women from leaving the house however they want.
I want to be able to go to Pakistan and order my own food. I want to sit outside the roadside restaurants and enjoy my food however I like. I don’t want to be stopped from going on the rooftop just because there are too many boys there. I don’t want every girl in Pakistan to quit her education just because she is too afraid to sit on the buses. I want to be safe doing what I want and not having to worry about who glares and who stares. If we show the men we fear them, they won’t stop. We need to fight back by being ourselves and putting an end to this game once and for all.