Sexual harassment at music events is a problem around the world – but some high-profile musicians are beginning to wake up to the issue. At a gig in Karachi, Pakistan on Saturday night, musician and actor Atif Aslam interrupted his band to intervene after he spotted a group of men in the crowd harassing a female fan.
Women were being “openly molested and harassed at the concert”, which had been organised as part of a Model United Nations event, according to Pakistani news channel Dunya News.
In one video filmed from the audience, Aslam – who is a huge star in Pakistan – instructs his band to stop playing so that he can address the men in the front row. He then asks his manager to help the woman onstage and take her to another area of the venue.
“Haven’t you seen a girl [before]?” the 33-year-old singer then asks the men, as the crowd cheers. “Your mother or sister could be here as well… Insaan ka baccha ban [act like a human being].”
Well-intended as it was, Aslam’s reference to the men’s female family members isn’t unproblematic. Women shouldn’t have to be contextualised as mothers or sisters in order to be deserving of respect – and it should have been the men who were thrown out of the event, rather than the woman who was moved.
Nevertheless, the singer’s response was widely praised in Pakistan, where the euphemism of “eve-teasing” is widely used to excuse public sexual harassment and molestation.
Massive respect for Atif Aslam. Stops midway during his performance, goes to the 1st row, rescues a girl from harassers, goes back to sing.— Sonam Mahajan (@AsYouNotWish) January 16, 2017
Of course, the phenomenon of sexual harassment at music concerts is far from confined to Pakistan. In February 2016, a video of Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz interrupting one of his gigs in Mexico in order to confront a man assaulting a woman in the front row went viral.
Closer to home, more than 300 sexual assaults and 52 rapes were reported as taking place in London’s clubs, bars and pubs in 2015/16. Campaign groups such as Girls Against and Safe Gigs for Women are trying to change the culture of sexual harassment at music events from the ground up, while indie bands including The 1975, Best Coast and Slaves have spoken out against gender violence at gigs.
Image: Instagram/Atif Aslam.