Pakistani Men Need To Acknowledge That Patriarchy Is Deeply Embedded In Our Society

I once overheard a group of Pakistani women say about a man adjusting his clothes in a very inappropriate way at a most holy site: "He must be a Pakistani!" We hear that the number of visits to porn websites are highest among Pakistanis. In fact, Pakistani men are a source of intrigue for the entire world, with our overzealous religiosity and simultaneous penchant for violence. We are notorious for beating our loved ones, killing them for misplaced honour, burning our own buses and bombing our own population.

Small wonder that this combination of moral degradation, violent extremism and lawlessness has translated into a wild mob that is capable of molesting and killing minors and assaulting anyone between the ages 5 and 70 from the opposite gender. We even go on to rationalise these crimes by placing the blame on victims: for any number of supposed transgressions of women from their purported provocative dressing to their entry into male-dominated public spaces to venturing out at “inappropriate” hours.

What we do not dare to admit is our desire to “teach” women a lesson for challenging male dominance. We cannot confess to our disdain for women. We cannot stand women competing with, and often outperforming, their male counterparts or their being preferred in merit-based jobs, despite institutional advantages tipped in men’s favour.

One is compelled to ask: What is wrong with Pakistani men and is there any solution to such feelings of constant paranoia and sense of being attacked?

Polite and respectful men are not exactly an anomaly, at least they have not been so in our history. We had Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who epitomised gentlemanly demeanour, and Malik Meraj Khalid, who was a symbol of decency and humility. Where and when did all of this change? Was it generated through years and years of sitting by the roadside “ogling” at every member of the female sex on the street? Is this a result of pornographic literature sold in bookstores once upon a time or the internet making pornographic images and videos widely accessible to everyone? How is it that a society brimming with moral policing can also have such monsters who violate women in front of their children and do not even spare a corpse?

There is a need for a deep ethnographic, anthropological study looking at behavioural, psychosocial and environmental factors. This has to be a deep-rooted, mixed methodological study of carefully chosen clusters representing all walks of the Pakistani society. Perspectives of women from every strata of society are necessary for the study to have any kind of meaning.

Once themes and determinants are understood, a careful strategic approach needs to be initiated in schools, colleges, universities, madrassahs and open universities, employing stage, billboards, television dramas, movies and community groups for widespread awareness. This also needs to be addressed in the form of training modules for the senate, parliament, police, paramilitary organisations, media personnel and the justice department. Behavioural scientists and psychologists need to be invested in helping to develop crisis intervention centers and help centers for youth with troubled early history. Laws need to be enacted to provide public reformation centers for juvenile offenders and psychiatric and psychosocial rehabilitation. Instead of mob mentality asking for public hangings, which will never address sexual criminal behavior, one needs to have a national conversation and consensus on how to develop mutual respect among the genders, tolerance and a national narrative.

It is now common knowledge that the cases of rape and other horrible crimes are underreported in the media. One can almost say that they are deliberately suppressed and this adds to the amount of toleration they enjoy in the society. This atrocious state of affairs goes even further than mere protection of rapists. In some places, a victim is even made to marry the very man who committed a sexual crime, including harassment and rape, against her. In some other places, rape is used as a penalty for “crimes”.

Pakistani men have a mammoth task before them if we hope to ever change these conditions. We need to start with the admission that there is something deeply wrong with our gender in this country. We need to stop denying the undeniable: the deeply embedded patriarchy in all of our institutions, laws and the society at large. Short of admitting this fact, we cannot even begin to heal from the fatal malaises which are destroying our society.

Prof. Mujtaba Quadri is Head of Nephrology at Maroof international Hospital, Islamabad.