Situated 5 kilometers west of Ghallanai, headquarters of the Mohmand tribal district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Chanday Bazaar is a popular market with several dozen shops laden with clothes, accessories and cosmetics for their female patrons. However, recently the local Jirga has barred women from frequenting the bazaar, unless accompanied by a male member of the family.
And now, they can no longer even shop for groceries unless chaperoned by a male family member, while shopkeepers selling goods primarily for women have also been affected by this ban.
“I used to get good business selling cosmetics and clothes. But after the Jirga’s decision, women are barely coming out to shop anymore,” lamented Kabil Khan, a shopkeeper at Chanday Bazaar. “Although our businesses are suffering, we have no choice but to honour the Jirga.”
The ban was implemented in reaction to reports of sexual harassment at Chanday Bazaar. However one Jirga member, Taj Mohammad, had claimed there had been 3 incidents where women patrons had developed a relationship with shopkeepers, and eventually eloped. To ensure this did not happen again, the Jirga issued orders that women could not visit the bazaar without a patriarch, brother or son accompanying them.
Instead of confronting the issue of sexual harassment by holding the harassers accountable, the Jirga has resorted to putting the onus on the victims instead. Such a move not just halts the progression of a society, but rather pushes it back.
Local authorities have said they are investigating the Jirga’s decision.
Report by Baseer Qalandar, authored by Asra Haque