Pakistan And Humanity’s Long Struggle Against Sexual Violence
Sexual abuse or molestation is abusive sexual misconduct by one person upon another. It is often perpetrated using force or by taking advantage of another. The worst form of sexual violence is rape. Described as forced sexual activity, it can be directed at women and men alike. According to recognized dictionaries it is defined as unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will or with a person who is beneath a certain age.
Sexual violence and rape may seem trans-historical: for sexual acts that we may categorize as coerced, violent and/or violatory appear to have been known in all historical periods. Yet we must not assume that rape and other forms of sexual aggression have no history. Nor should we suppose that the direction of historical change follows an obvious or inevitable pattern. The specific circumstances, general contexts, and collective and individual meanings attributed to sexual violence may change over time and are matters for historical investigation.
Rape, unfortunately, is as old as the history of human beings on earth. Humans started living in a society and moved gradually towards the formulation of a state by concentrating power. When one tribe, civilization or state claimed victory on another, then as part of their conquest they raped the females from the defeated side in revenge.
In ancient Greece women were treated as property. In ancient Rome, women were treated as minors according to law and only got a median position if they had children but this was slightly higher than slaves. Throughout their lives they were in the grip of their fathers, brothers and husbands. They faced sexual abuse at every step of the life. The “Rape of the Sabine women” as a panorama is a vital segment in early Roman memory. It has, therefore, attracted much attention from primordial and contemporary historians, poets and artists. Livy presents the rape of the Sabine women as an act of necessity rather than one of violence.
In medieval-era Europe (1100 to 1600), rape was a common aspect of social control exercised over women. If we talk about South Asian Subcontinental history, there were many forms of sexual abuse like forced marriage, abduction, minors being married off and pederasty was also customary. Among Hindus, the practice of Sati was to be found, where widows burned to death on the funeral pyre of their husbands. Many forms of sexual assault continued into the British Raj with the same intensity and persist into the contemporary era.
In Pakistan, some rape cases have received public attention at various moments: renowned actress Shabnam was gang raped in 1978, Mukhtaran Bibi well known as Mukhtaran Mai was victimized on the orders of a tribal council (Panchayat) in 2002, Dr Shazia Khalid was raped by Major Jhanzaib in 2005 resulting in the late Nawab Akbar Buggti demanding from then COAS and President General Pervez Musharraf that action be taken – which was rejected.
In fact, Musharraf gave a very ugly statement about the issue of sexual violence: he expressed the view that many women claimed rape only to obtain European or American visa and nationality. After that statement, he was criticized from within and outside the country. Views of comparable odiousness have persisted in governments since the era of General Musharraf – equally so in the current one.
In the last five years, reported instances of child abuse have been increasing in Pakistan: Kasur, Rawalpinidi, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Bannu and DI Khan appear to be the hotspots. Many culprits were arrested and some of them got capital punishment but it is difficult to claim that it had any impact on the prevalence of this crime.
Meanwhile, in an age where social media is ever more important, women online face the most odious forms of sexual abuse in terms of trolling and vulgarity. This culture was started by the social media teams of the current ruling party PTI which were and are supported by their mainstream leaderships. Other political parties like PML-N started to follow the same nasty approach: Maryam Nawaz Sharif leader of PML N, Dr Shireen Mazari from PTI and various outspoken female journalists are under siege from this abusive culture. The Pride of Pakistan, youngest ever Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, has not been spared such treatment on social media.
Recently, the federal government passed two ordinances that “change the definition of rape” and are aimed at awarding exemplary punishment to rapists, including chemical castration and hanging. This ordinance came into existence after the rape incident that happened on the Lahore Sialkot Motorway where on 09 September, a mother of two children was raped in front of them.
Perhaps most importantly, it is the need of the time to enforce all such laws consistently and firmly. Extraordinarily inhuman punishments, which are often called for by charged citizens, are not the solution.
One of the long-term aspects to be considered is better education, especially around topics related to consent and sexuality. Many people from our male-dominated society oppose sex education while discussing intimate parts with great detail when fighting someone!