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Lack Of Sex Education Perpetuates Rape Culture. Time To Address It

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In July, survivors of sexual violence in Pakistan’s educational institutions and workplaces showed exemplary courage and shared their experiences online – in a bid to name and shame their tormentors. Their voices were amplified by activists on various social media platforms and it gave rise to a movement against sexual harassment in schools and colleges. Student leaders, teachers, activists and survivors started discourse around nuances of consent, sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

The institutions included many notable schools and universities including Lahore Grammar School 1-A/1 Gulberg, FAST, NUST, KIPS, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to name a few. In one particular case, Pakistani students in Canada shared their experiences of sexual violence and harassment with an alleged assailant who violated more than 40 women.

On September 17, PTI senator Faisal Javed Khan announced on Twitter that the government would establish a national database for sex offenders. “Govt to establish a national database for sex offenders to curb incidents of rape and sexual assault. A national database of rapists and sex offenders is going to be set up,” he tweeted.

I personally remained involved in the movement and we worked with legal advisors, journalists, activists, student leaders and survivors on a day to day basis.

With the help of activists like Nayab Gohar Jan, we were able to mobilise representatives from multiple institutions.

Alongside sharing information about alleged assailants, the movement was also centred at bringing nuances of consent, sexual violence and rape culture to the discourse. In articles, interviews and conversations, the activists involved in the movement discussed behaviour patterns that perpetuate the rape culture, role of the media, normalized predatory behaviour, male entitlement and the importance of identifying red flags.

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I was part of a panel discussion alongside Ms. Maria Waheed and Mr. Salman Sufi about rape culture and practical steps including the need for a national sex offenders database. Blogger and activist Naveen Rizvi worked with Nayab and myself to start discussion around the need for a national database of sex offenders. According to Ms. Rizvi, “We need a national database allowing employers to conduct checks and identify applicants with convictions or cautions for sex offenders.”

She added, “When India launched its national sex offender register in 2018 it included 440,000 names.” In discussing how to curb the rape culture and incidents of sexual violence, the movement leaders emphasised repeatedly on the need for a national sex offenders database. (https://www.naveenofficial.com/post/ppc-protecting-pakistans-children)

Following last week’s unfortunate incident of gang rape of a mother in front of her children on Lahore-Sialkot motorway, government officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Minister Faisal Javed Khan stressed on the need for harsher punishments. Capital punishment was discussed and was also criticised by journalists, academics and activists as having violent and patriarchal implications.

The need for reformative justice in Pakistan was another nuance repeatedly highlighted in the discourse by activists and organisations like Dastak PK. Following the incident, the government announced the decision to establish a national database of sex offenders to maintain a registry of offenders. This measure will make institutions, workplaces and public spaces safer as there will be government scrutiny after someone is charged and even convicted for sexual crimes. Such registries have been established in many other countries including Canada, India, Germany, the United States, New Zealand and United Kingdom etc.

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Parties involved in the movement hope to continue discourse around the national database of sex offenders and its regulation and maintenance. Further, there is also a need to discuss and understand aspects of the rape culture and normalised behaviour patterns that perpetuate it.

In a discussion with a feminist activist Musfirah Taqdees, we concluded that male entitlement over spaces and bodies and lack of sex education are two of the many factors which perpetuate the rape culture and need to be discussed. While commenting upon Education Minister Murad Ras’s idea of segregation in institutions, many activists and student leaders emphasised on the need for practising consent as a lifestyle and creating safer spaces for men and women to coexist and respect one another’s space, bodies and boundaries. Segregation only seems to be a quick fix and implies that men and women cannot coexist without violating each other. Respecting our boundaries and understanding gender and power dynamics should be part of children’s education, socialisation and upbringing from the very start.

As we continue to mobilise and work around discourse, we hope to highlight nuances for the regulation of practical steps being taken and discuss the implications of behaviours and tendencies that perpetuate rape culture in Pakistan. There is definitely a long way to go but it is essential to believe in the power of meaningful conversation and discourse, be it in the field of policy-making or interpersonal relationships.

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1 Comment

  1. Ahmed September 24, 2020

    Why is there rape in countries with sex education? Coupled with easy access of sex? Even prostitution?

    Why is there rape in countries like France where it is a part of their school education to teach students how to have sex?

    Whenever you read about rape there is a statements ” Rape is about power and not sex”. Will sex-ed address that aswell?

    The sex-ed in ultra-progressive places like California teach nothing that can be a deterrent to rape.

    This entire article is an argument from ignorance.

    In Pakistan rape is promoted due to many social, economic and legal reasons. Specially the legal ones.

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