This year, Lahooti Melo managed to grab some eminent figures to shed some light on topics circulating their theme of ‘An Ode to Liberated Women’. We got a hold of the esteemed and much-appreciated British-Pakistani writer, Mohammed Hanif, whose stance on harassment and misogynistic behaviour is something everyone should be enlightened with.
On the topic of how Lahooti Melo and similar festivals are making their way into the entertainment scene, while keeping the literary factors alive, Hanif stressed upon how essential it is for Pakistan’s youth. “The good thing about Lahooti Melo this year is that the theme revolves around the rights of women, and the sessions further discuss the topics,” he said.
“One benefit is that it sparks awareness among the masses, especially the youth that is attending the festival. They get to know about the solutions and laws about problems [pertaining to harassment]. It is hoped that it amplifies understanding and awareness,” he added.
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The notion behind a liberated woman is often misunderstood, and Hanif believes nobody else should have a say in what defines a liberated woman. “A man cannot define who or what a liberated woman is, or what she should do in order to be liberated. This decision is all up to the women themselves,” he said. “When women achieve their status of liberation, then they should also liberate men, as men are prisoners of their own masculinity,” he further stated.
While speaking of harassment faced by women, the misuse of the #MeToo movement also comes up, as many deem it relevant to the case of Ali Zafar and Meesha Shafi. However, Hanif stressed upon how the misuse is not applicable to this case, as Zafar’s reputation was not tarnished. “In Pakistan, Ali Zafar did not have to face any consequences of whatever happened. His film turned out to be a super hit. Whereas, Meesha Shafi had to face the brunt of it,” he said.
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“Also keep in mind that these structures are primitive, dating back to centuries. When a reputable, powerful man tries to harass somebody, then the victim has comparatively fewer venues to deal with the situation, in terms of confiding in or complaining to someone,” he said, further adding how if one out of a hundred cases turn out to be fake, then the current discourse that has started over the unfairness prevailing over centuries will cover that as well.
On a parting note, it is crucial to laud Lahooti Melo which created a platform for taboo topics to be discussed, and Hanif knows what sets it apart from the rest. “It is basically a music festival, and Pakistan holds an insignificant amount of festivals as such. Even with power talks and sessions, it is still a music festival at its core. What makes it different is you get to come across rising musicians and discover new music,” he said.