This Is How Our Culture Is Fashioned To Raise Rapists

Men are “nahaatay dhotay ghorray”. This an actual Punjabi phrase I’ve grown up listening to being crassly uttered by literate and not-so-literate women around me umpteen times. Like bathed and washed horses, strong and sinless, men are always virgins, as good as new; this is the highly sexist message encoded therein.

Thus it is proclaimed by women – the paradoxical produce of a patriarchal mindset, the propagating proponents of patriarchy, the ones who, knowingly or unknowingly, themselves reinforce male supremacist views, sometimes even more so than men. It brings to mind the very apt saying “aurat hi aurat ki sub se barri dushman hai” – which is yet another oft-repeated sentiment, conveniently suited to pushing the patriarchal agenda. The repercussions of such casually and thoughtlessly delivered remarks – and their becoming part of the vernacular – shape societal inclinations.

The stark difference in the manner in which we raise boys as opposed to girls has, perhaps, a lot to do with the promotion of patricentric practices and rape culture within the society. In our relentless bid to raise modest, moderate daughters, we have disregarded the need to raise responsible and restrained sons. We have forgotten to teach our sons that sins of the body or the soul are as much reprehensible when committed by a son as when a daughter commits them. We forget to mention that the honour of a society rests as much on men as it does on women, and that the former will be dishonored too if they violate the sanctity of the latter. Hence, there should not be any space for such bigoted ideals as nahaatay dhotay ghorray.

It is not okay to think that sons can leave or return home whenever they please, or be in a relationship with whosoever, and then to justify it with the ridiculous notion that ‘boys will be boys,’ while girls must guard their chastity as their freedom of movement and choice will invariably bring disgrace to them and their families. It is also not ok to consider that men’s chastity is inviolable and, therefore, they can choose to be promiscuous. Yet, for some reason, the word ‘chastity’ is hardly ever associated with the male gender in our social jargon.

Moreover, we have been implicitly brought up to believe that only women are supposed to guard and cover their bodies, being the embodiment of family honour and respect; while for men, it’s unproblematic to violate that honour through rape and come out unscathed, as their honour can suffer no ruin. This is a necessary outcome of forgetting to teach our sons that the domains of decency are not gender-specific and that men need to resort to modesty, self-restraint and decency as much as women do. What we need is to train our sons to be respectful towards the opposite gender; to school them into believing that men have a responsibility to maintain honour too; that what lies ‘between their legs’ needs to be kept under check for them as much as for the women. If they let themselves loose, their actions will bring similar disgrace and shame to them and the society at large.

It is this gender-based dichotomy in child-raising patterns more than misogyny which is responsible for nurturing the rape culture in our society, notwithstanding that this discriminatory rearing might also be an offshoot of misogyny. Such archetypes of preferential male upbringing encourage unbridled power that nurtures lust and lechery, leading to a behavior of impunity and inviolability in the face of sexual offences committed by men.

Lechery is the undesirable spin-off of the glorified ‘machismo’ that society loves to nurture while entitling men to their sexuality as being ‘unfettered.’ It is acceptable for men to sleep around or have extramarital affairs, since ‘men will be men,’ the macho mantra that often comes to the rescue of the male chauvinists and those indulging in sexual transgressions. The mere acceptance that men are ‘polygamous’ and ‘gynephilic’ by nature, driven and bound by biological requirement, an uncontainable desire that might be fulfilled by consent or force as a natal right, is like issuing men a licence to rape.

Smug and secure in their belief of being impregnable (literally), so many of the sons we raise become such monsters that they rip and rape not only women but the very fabric of society. A rapist is not just a misogynist but, most often, also a debauched and morally corrupt person. He might also be a liar, fraudulent, alcoholic, gambler, a conman, embezzler, prone to committing injustices, all of which do not stem from misogyny alone. Hence, rape cannot be looked upon in isolation, divorced from other spillovers of overall moral degradation of the society that need to be kept under check.

As women, we do not like it much if a finger is pointed at us for also being somewhat responsible for what happens to us, but the fact remains that mothers have a greater role to play in children’s upbringing and if, as mothers, we can teach our girls to be modest, why can’t we instill the same modesty and inhibition in our sons? No degree of police reforms and rectification of the judicial system will be sufficient, unless we modify our family values into a model where boys and girls are treated as equals, held equally responsible for bringing honour or dishonour to their families; where both genders are taught to guard their chastity; and, moreover, where it is taught that rape is, in fact, dishonour for the one who is led by animal desire into committing it, not the survivor. The misandry that recent waves of feminism in our country sometimes display might prevent us from owning it up, but the fact remains that women need to stop promoting patriarchal practices through such behavior as much as men, instead of simply scapegoating misogyny.

Beyond doubt, Islam enjoins equality for both men and women. The holy Quran ordains both men and women to guard their modesty. In Surah Nur it is asserted, “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them.” Again, in Surah Ahzab, the believers are described thus: ‘the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so,’ making it quite clear that there is no differentiation between men and women where standards of modesty and chastity are concerned.

Can it be any more abundantly clear that our fixation with women’s morality is a cultural malpractice, not a religious decree?

Faryal Shahzad is an entrepreneur and a freelance journalist based in Lahore.