Time To Acknowledge Link Between Toxic Masculinity And Rape Culture

Naima Ahmed writes about the deplorable state of women rights in Pakistan, She argues that this is due to toxic masculinity and the misplaced notion of 'honour'.

The staggering plight of women in the country continues to be a problem. Every day, news channels and newspapers report new incidents of violence against women. Respect is the basic human emotion that deters a man from creating chaos. The men of this land give respect whimsically either under the garb of protecting their woman’s 'honour'. If she disobeys them, they commit violence against her in case their own ego is bruised. In both cases, it is the woman that bears the brunt of this toxic display of masculinity. In the land of the pure, no amount of Zainabs, Dua Mangis or Mukhtara Mais have been enough to alter a mindset that time and again justifies and perpetuates violence against women.

In today’s age, the frequency of rape and violence against women shows the grim reality that we are all oblivious to; the basic lack of humanity and respect for a gender that makes up half of the population of this country. The laws, policies and systems are made by men for men and heavily lack the concept of gender mainstreaming. Few days ago, a renowned journalist in his show highlighted that many men have the capacity to be a potential rapist by the way they commented on social media about the Dua Mangi case. This without exaggeration is the mindset of the majority of men.

So the question is: where did we all as a society go wrong?  Who is responsible for such frustrated upbringing of these boys? Is it just the family unit or the society as a whole as well? What corrective measures are needed to curb the violations against women and any marginalised group existing in Pakistan?

When the majority and those in echelons of power remain silent, the perpetrator rejoices. Suddenly, when any form of violence against women occurs, the onus is on the woman to prevent her character from being assassinated. Women have to remain apologetic about everything and anything especially if she occupies a public space whilst having a man next to her. How dare she walk, talk and wear clothes that project a voice? After all, doesn’t she know who she is – a mere weak woman. A woman strolling on a street is frowned upon in Pakistan. Time and again the horror of the heinous acts of violence committed against women show how they are not granted the right to exist and if they are, they must remain ever so apologetic and thankful for it.

Many analysts say that capital punishment will not curb the menace of rape and is not an effective deterrent. In India, despite amendments to the law, capital punishment has been applied only in the rarest of cases, which means that many of the accused walk free due to insufficient evidence and biased handling of the case by the enforcement agencies.

In Pakistan an effective deterrent would be highly active, sensitised and vigilant policing. Especially the ‘thanas’, where the victim comes to report an incident of rape or child abuse, need to be equipped and trained with officers who immediately investigate once the first information report is lodged. By remaining complacent, we collectively as a society are sending a message to young boys growing up that it is alright to feel frustrated whenever your ego is bruised and it is justified to commit any form of violence against a woman.

Scores of cases, especially those unreported, come to show how Pakistan as a state has failed its voiceless women. It shows how, despite having the police and laws, the implementation always falls short. The police need a code of conduct pre and post training that sensitises constables to handle such cases with extreme care and vigilance.

As we look around, we see that the systems of governance have been made by men for men, that nurture the idea of a woman who is helpless and is not deemed fit to make decisions for themselves. But then, there is a systemic helplessness, the outcry that no one listens to. Over a period of nearly two years, more than 600 poor and vulnerable Pakistani girls and women have been sold as brides to Chinese men.

Those in power, whether voted or not voted, seem to have robbed the people off their basic humanity. There is a heavy price to pay if you are born poor and even heavier if you are born a girl in a poverty-stricken household. When will this maddening vicious cycle end? Why are the men silent and not standing for women? This is not a women issue, this is an issue for every man who loves his women, has a daughter, mother, sister and a wife.

Why is it that women make up half of this country, yet men dominate power structures? Why is it that a dense layer of hopelessness, followed later by complacency, settles in after a girl is kidnapped or raped and all we can offer are prayers and false hope?

Pakistan is a country full of paradoxes. How is it that men who religiously guard and attach their honour with a woman’s honour end up heavily violating the same women; this is beyond comprehension. Robust laws would in fact have a very limited impact in reducing the crime unless they are complemented with a change in the attitudes of the police, judiciary, government officers and society. No government policy can fix this mindset without credibility from the civil society and government institutions. The question still remains, where is our humanity?

The writer is a legal and policy analyst and has an LLM from SOAS University.