Leaks and Lessons

 Published in: The Daily Star on May 24, 2017
Leaks and Lessons

Too many leaks are happening these days. White House staffers have been leaking information. What Potus says within the protective walls is almost instantly picked up by The Washington Post or The New York Times, just to become breaking news within the next few hours in almost all liberal news outlets. Leaks are making news and becoming revelations later. The latest leak has been about the Potus asking a top FBI official to exclude him from being investigated for collusion with Russia during his election campaign. Lesson: Even the White House blue curtains have ears.

In other words, leaks are getting serious now. After Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the then head of the International Monetary Fund, was accused of assaulting a maid in New York, the hotels in New York provided the maids with panic buttons. This time, it’s John Joseph Boswell, the chief executive of the world’s largest wine-and-whiskey barrel manufacturer. A Trump supporter, Boswell patted a woman’s back in a hotel right before the president was being sworn in and got arrested in DC. Lesson: Anyone can decide on a tell-it-all.

A few weeks ago, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, had a tense dinner meeting with Theresa May after which he felt that it was more likely that Brexit talks were doomed to fail now, if Britain refused to pay the “divorce bill” and that Britain shouldn’t treat EU as a “golf club.” Weeks later, Juncker said that he thinks the “leak” of that meeting was a “mistake” as it could very well damage the potential of a collaboration. Well, that’s it. Lesson: Some leaks lead to revelations, some don’t.

Bangladesh, as a country, also isn’t lagging far behind with regard to active leaks. We too have successfully leaked SSC question papers, BCS question papers ever since 2005 and now we have also begun leaking bank test papers. Agrani Bank just cancelled their recruitment as their questions were allegedly leaked.

Amidst all the leaks that affect us, the most damaging leak was associated with the Banani rape survivors. This leak didn’t threaten presidency, a Brexit discourse or a career plan. This leak destroyed lives. Photos of the girls raped in Banani were leaked in social media. Videos went viral, pictures surfaced and the damage was done. In spite of the blurred video, people familiar with the girl’s face were able to recognise it. The stills were clear and telling. As a habit, I try being the other person on a daily basis. So in this case, I tried being her mother in my head. I was shattered. In my head, I was crashing against the waves on an unfriendly shore and bleeding. How would I ever hold my girl’s hand and take her out for a walk amidst the jungle packed with wolves? A single leak has shattered my daughter’s life. A single social media ‘share’ had obliterated her entity, violated her, perhaps no less than those eight harrowing hours. How would I ever become a mum again?

To make matters worse, a few days later, I read, re-read, read, re-read a piece of news: Women should lower their eyes and stop free mixing and never mention the word “rape”. Are we being serious here? My head spun and my vertigo was finally at its worst. I could almost collapse in disgust. The very next day, I was addressing nurses who have dedicated their entire lives to serving others. In an attempt to “inspire” them on Nurses Day, I mentioned the first Muslim nurse’s story, 1,200 years ahead of Florence Nightingale. Her name was Rufaida Al-Aslamia. During the Battle of Khaibar, she sought permission from our Prophet (PBUH) to take part in the war along with her team. Prophet (PBUH) agreed and after the war was over, Rufaida got equal share from the spoils of the war, as much as the soldiers. If our Prophet could have a woman nursing the soldiers and then give her equal rewards, where is the suggestion of a separate workplace and so-called “modesty” coming from?

A week ago, I was lucky enough to watch two dozens of brilliant innovators flaunt their prototypes. Amongst them, two girls stood tall with their discovery of sanitary napkins made from jute and water hyacinth. The cost of the napkins came down to less than Tk 2. While I congratulated them and found an opportunity for readymade garment workers to use them, my heart sank when they shared their on-ground experiences of speaking to women who weren’t yet prepared to talk about intimate hygiene issues. I realised that throughout our lives, we end up being shy of our own flesh and spirit. For most of us, most feminine occurrences are marked in private folders and never to be read in public. There we go. Lesson: Men dictate and decide the feminist discourse, women don’t.

Few critical issues related to women remain under covers while ironically a few are spiced up to favour the news space in social media.

Truth is, women are as much private as public. Whether we withdraw to the corners and decide to weep on our own, or whether we focus on exposure, let us at least teach our daughters the correct lesson: RAPE must be pronounced in all CAPS, women must look up and women must mix freely as ever before. Neither is womanhood born out of shadows, nor should it be expected to thrive in one.

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