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Gender Human Rights Politics

Banning ‘Vulgar’ Content Won’t Reduce Sex Crimes. Understanding Consent And Bodily Autonomy Will

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Recently, PM Imran Khan said that the reason behind Pakistan’s increasing sex crimes was access to smartphones and ‘vulgar’ content and that watching Turkish soaps would bring the youth closer to the Islamic way of life thus reducing these sex crimes. While the government seems to be taking notice of the ever-growing number of these cases, it seems as if we are yet to educate ourselves as to why these crimes are increasing.

Consent is a topic we can expect our kindergarteners to comprehend, yet when it comes to the adult male population of Pakistan, this word remains foreign for a vast majority. The concept of consent remains absent from the upbringing of most young boys in our society. In a household where the best pieces of meat are reserved for the boys, seldom do these boys grow up to believe that women have a right over anything in their lives including their own bodies. This is why ‘mera jism meri marzi’ sounds more offensive to Pakistani men than the vilest of racial slurs. The outrage that this slogan has caused in the past is a testament to the fact that men in our society openly claim ownership of the bodies of women – and that is where the problem lies.

Women’s bodies are owned by men; it is in a woman’s body where her entire family’s honour lies in our society. A woman choosing to reveal her body does so at the expense of losing her family’s honour. Yet, at the same time, these men have no idea about a woman’s body. From a young age, the female body is something nobody seems to talk about – and young boys grow up finding all of this extremely mysterious. In a country where sanitary pads and tampons have to be covered in brown paper bags, a woman is constantly made to feel ashamed of her body. Sex education is unheard of and young girls and older women alike are hushed when it comes to talking about their bodies. Notice how even the word gynecologist is covered up and you’ll find people referring to them as a ‘lady doctor’. Even the most educated, most modern women have had to lie about menstrual cramps, pretending that they have a headache if they need to take a day off from work. And this has made our men completely alien to women. Now imagine being so disconnected, so uneducated about something but having complete and full ownership of it. It is a recipe for disaster.

As young boys grow up, they grow up believing that they need to protect the honour of their own families by keeping the women of the house in check. You will find boys out in the streets post-midnight, making sure no male gaze falls on their sisters. However, it is these same boys who are taught that women out on the streets, for whatever reason, ought not to be respected. It is then that these men, who believe completely that they own all women’s bodies, end up raping women that they may find out of their homes simply because, in their eyes, it is women’s fault that they are out.

Of course, while common sense dictates we refuse to shame and hold the victims accountable, it is the victim shaming that comes from our society that strengthens these rapists and creates more. Not long ago, CCPO Lahore blamed the victim of the Motorway gang rape incident for having brought the unfortunate incident upon herself. While he later apologised for his statement, his apology was less of an apology and more of a justification as to why he had said what he did. He is not alone. In fact, he represents the perspective of the general masses, who will continue to believe that the victim is somehow the culprit. Not too long ago, a video on social media popped up in which a private channel was interviewing men and women, discussing this issue that plagues our society. A lot of the men had countless justifications for rape ranging from vulgarity on TV shows to the fact that when men’s wives refuse to please them, they go out and rape other women, thus claiming that a man will satisfy his lust via martial rape or by raping someone other than his wife.

No Turkish soaps can change this ideology. No banning of content can educate our men. It is up to the society as a whole to make some drastic changes to itself, to the values it inculcates in young individuals, and only then will we be able to pull ourselves out of this abyss we seem to be falling deeper into.

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Naya Daur