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OP-ED: Porimoni’s shadhona

  • Published at 03:23 am August 18th, 2021
Pori Moni
FILE PHOTO: The Rapid Action Battalion’s raid on Pori Moni’s residence came months after she accused a businessman of trying to rape and murder her at the Dhaka Boat Club Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Why does Porimoni face a level of scrutiny so many others do not?

Growing up, I wasn’t necessarily the best student. I was intelligent enough to do well in studies, but was never motivated. My father’s advice to me was that if I didn’t wish to excel academically, then I should channel my energies into creative paths in music, dance, or art. His only stipulation was that whatever discipline I devoted myself to, I should devote myself entirely. 

The concept of shadhona, the continuing pursuit of excellence, was important to him. He said: “Whether you wish to become a saint or the devil, it will be through shadhona.” According to him, the most notorious criminal and the most lauded philanthropist all arrived at their stations in life through hard work.

It is clear that Porimoni is not a saint, but neither is she the devil. I don’t doubt that the heights (some will say depths) she reached came through years of devotion, hard work, toil, and strife. She is a beautiful woman who attracted the patronage of powerful men who felt compelled to gift her expensive items. Is it Porimoni’s fault that she chose to accept their patronage? Or does that blame go to our society which makes these paths to wealth for women of beauty viable, and thus tempting?

I remember again my father, who was a police officer in newly partitioned East Pakistan. He was incorruptible, and thus had to endure transfer after transfer. He was sent around the country with his family, always being moved from post to post because his colleagues and supervisors were irritated by his steadfast refusal to take bribes. This made for a difficult life for him and his family, but in the end it was the right thing to do, for at least in theory, we expect our police officers to be of outstanding moral character. 

While I don’t doubt that there are many in the film industry who are of outstanding moral character, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect every actor and actress to never drink and never engage in so-called “immoral acts” whose burdens of shame inevitably fall on the women.

To be sure, alcohol and other banned substances were found in Porimoni’s flat, and it seems that the hold she had over powerful men went to her head, as she allegedly engaged in blackmail and extortion. If proven true, these allegations should be prosecuted to the appropriate extent of the law. At the same time, I wonder what might turn up if similar raids were held in the homes of those now loudly condemning her, and if her newfound enemies in high places would have let things lie if Porimoni had conducted herself in a more circumspect manner. 

Ultimately, a woman’s body is a woman’s body, her beauty hers to wield in the ways she prefers. If Porimoni’s conduct is the yardstick of criminality that requires televised raids using police and RAB personnel, then we will have to hire many more officers and find many more cameras, because a great number of others will have to be thrown into jail also. I praise the authorities for the alacrity they have shown in bringing Porimoni to justice. I hope this same standard will be applied to the pressing matters that face the nation, and to those who have long escaped justice for crimes much more heinous than that of being a beautiful woman.

Sultana F Nahar is an author, an advocate in the Bangladesh Supreme Court, and the proprietor of Hermitage Guesthouse in Srimangal.

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