A young Pakistani woman who was kidnapped in an affluent area of Karachi, the capital of the province of Sindh, was blamed by social media users for her own abduction, sparking a heated debate about how women are perceived in Desi society.
On Nov. 30, Dua Mangi, the 20-year-old niece of Sindhi language poet and columnist Aijaz Mangi, was kidnapped by up to five armed men as she was walking down a street in Karachi's Khayaban-e-Bukhari area with her friend, Haris Soomro, according to BBC. Soomro was reportedly shot in the neck as he tried to resist the men.
That same day, Mangi's sister Laila pleaded for help on Facebook.
"My little sister Dua Nisar Mangi has been kidnapped and is now missing, and I request you all to spread this news as far as you can," Laila wrote. "If you know anything or any detail about Chai Master Bukhari or any news regarding dua's hangout in that place please let us know. Its urgent. I want you all to spread this news as possible."
Though Laila's post was shared over 10,000 times, she also received a handful of controversial comments from social media users who were more concerned with what Mangi was wearing at the time of her kidnapping, BBC reports. Several people seemingly blamed Mangi for her own kidnapping.
A rough translation of one publicly shared comment, for example, cited Islam and criticized Mangi for not dressing appropriately and hanging out with a male friend. Mangi's profile picture on Facebook shows her wearing an off-the-shoulder knit top.
"Well kidnapping but the things she was doing as well as her family, it was always on the cards," another comment read, according to a screenshot. "Hopefully these stupid feminist and liberals will be careful in their approaches now."
The comments immediately sparked backlash across other social media platforms, including Twitter.
"Dua Mangi - a young girl, got kidnapped & some people are saying that she 'deserves' it because she wears sleeveless tops," one person tweeted. "Welcome to our desi society where the fingers will be always pointed towards the woman no matter what even if she's raped, kidnapped or harassed. Shameful!"
Dua Mangi - a young girl, got kidnapped & some people are saying that she "deserves" it because she wears sleeveless tops. Welcome to our desi society where the fingers will be always pointed towards the woman no matter what even if she's raped, kidnapped or harassed. Shameful!— Komal Shahid (@ArmedWithWords) December 1, 2019
"The victim-blaming of dua mangi stems from the perception that desi men hold of the perfect female victim," another posted on Twitter.
"She must be pious, homely-looking and covers herself with dupatta," the user continued, referencing the traditional, shawl-like scarf worn by some Indian women. "Only then can we [recognize] atrocities committed against women. otherwise she is asking for it."
the victim-blaming of dua mangi stems from the perception that desi men hold of the perfect female victim. she must be pious, homely-looking and covers herself with dupatta. only then can we recongise atrocities committed against women. otherwise she is asking for it.— Safa Imran (@notsafaimran) December 1, 2019
In an interview with BBC, a senior police officer said that the debate on social media over the perception of female victims often benefits offenders, making it harder for authorities to do their job. Danika Kamal, a psychologist, echoed the same sentiment to the outlet.
"The debate has turned from who kidnapped the girl to why she was kidnapped," Kamal said. "Such naming and shaming causes added pain to the affected family."
According to Gulf News, Mangi returned home safely last Saturday. Her kidnappers allegedly released her after receiving a ransom. The News International — Pakistan's largest English-language newspaper — separately reported that Mangi subsequently gave a statement to police but failed to identify her kidnappers because they had blindfolded her.
The investigation into Mangi's abduction is ongoing.