Letters To The Editor

“Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.” – Lillian Dickson

Why do people blame the victim?

Blaming the victim is a phenomenon in which victims of crimes or tragedies are held accountable for what happened to them. Victim blaming allows people to believe that such events could never happen to them. Blaming the victim is known to occur in rape and sexual assault cases, where the victim of the crime is often accused of inviting the attack due to her clothing or behaviour. Recently, a mother of two kids in her early 30s was gang raped by two men when her car ran out of fuel at Lahore motorway. The victim was blamed by many for travelling so late in the night. After all, what is behind this tendency to blame the victim? One psychological phenomenon that contributes to this tendency to lay the blame on the victim is known as the fundamental attribution error. This bias involves attributing other people’s behaviours to internal, personal characteristics while ignoring external forces and variables that also might have played a role. Another issue that contributes to our tendency to blame the victim is known as the hindsight bias. When we look at an event that happened in the past, we have a tendency to believe that we should have been able to see the signs and predict the outcome. This hindsight makes it seem like the victims of a crime, accident, or another form of misfortune should have been able to predict and prevent whatever problem might have befallen them. And that’s exactly what happened in the Lahore motorway case. But bad things can and probably will happen to you at some point in your life. So, the next time you find yourself wondering what someone else did to bring on their misfortune, take a moment to consider the psychological attributions and biases that affect your judgment. Rather than blame the victim, try putting yourself in that person’s shoes and perhaps try a little empathy instead.

Qasim Ali,

Make the world safer for women

One in three women have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence, according to the World Health Organisation. Considering the high rate of incidents globally, it is only natural for women to have suppressed and internalised deep emotional and psychological trauma. Over hundreds of years, this kind of uninterrupted and powerful stress has impacted their mobility and prevented them from realising their true potential, hampering not just the individual, but societies and economies at large. To drive gender balance for economic progress, it is important that our ‘engines of growth’ – our cities – become safer, more secure and comfortable for women. Urban planning – a design and infrastructure prerogative – has traditionally never been associated with ‘safety’, which is largely a law-and-order issue. Yet, city planners play an important role in creating safer cities by incorporating and advocating safe designs. It is well-documented that areas with no or inadequate streetlights are prone to crime in cities. Well-lit streets provide a safer environment to the users, especially pedestrians. Our cities need to encourage activities and porosity on the streets to build natural surveillance. Distributing land-use so that streets are populated with a healthy number of cafes, restaurants and recreational places – like libraries and sitting areas – will ensure that people use them. Cities should also offer legitimate space and conveniences to the informal sector like hawkers, auto-rickshaw stands and so on, to facilitate the public. While the design and planning of public spaces can support crime prevention to a great extent, how a city responds to an inevitable incident can set an example, and from a women’s safety perspective, directly impact future occurrences. The need of the hour is a paradigm shift – from a male-centric urban development model to a gender inclusive one – wherein planners are involved in the process of designing an inclusive and safe city for all.

Suhaira Shakeel,