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The biggest hate crime of all

By: Reem Wasay

Rape in Pakistan is now flamboyant; a typically male-celebrated rite of passage presided over by lawless jirgas that have ordained victims and victors in a feast of festering morals.

From now on, if you are stolen from, have your valuables drastically disengaged from your cautious control and are left bare and broken, you will be urged to look less rich and forthcoming with your belongings; the fault lies not with the thief but with the unfortunate individual left counting the residual remainders of their belongings. It does not end there.

When on the road, if, while merrily driving along, you should suffer the misfortune of being hit by, let’s say, a drunk driver, you will be the one urged to give up cruise control — you are hit and are then made to run. It is a lopsided world where victims of crime and blatant disregard are blamed for their misgivings, are made to succumb to forced judgements and primed to cower before the misdirected judgements of others. Luckily, thieves are still punished and inebriated drivers are still reprimanded. The above-mentioned world is one the Pakistani rape victim lives in — a vengeful wasteland where being a woman is the biggest crime of all, where fault lies within the flaws of our own interpretation of crime, punishment, blame and morality. We live in a society so sanctified by its patriarchal misunderstanding of God that discriminatory hate speech is gratefully accepted as a sermon if delivered by a half-cooked beard in traditional garb, where women are merited no penance for forced encounters, no reimbursement in terms of reform. In Pakistan, women do not get raped; they get themselves raped.

There is an unsaid caustic collaboration between all institutions in this country to deliberately hold women back. Sadly, even our media outfits cannot be absolved from this accusation. While reporting on gender crime, reporters will eschew each and every aspect of the victim’s life, gleefully commenting on who ‘gets’ raped but never talking about ‘who’ rapes. Our views of gender crime, whether in the form of rape, jirga declarations of debasement, honour killings (honour and shame both putridly lie within a woman’s anatomy) or mutilations, must change. Any violent act used to suppress women, to downplay their rights and rational industry must be seen in a dimension with a difference: it is not about rape or violence anymore, it is about this country partaking in the biggest ‘hate crime’ of all.

Words have played a monstrous role in conditioning our mentalities — rape and revenge, virtue and violence, piety and patriarchy, honour and hate. Can we not see that without changing our dialogue on how we treat one-half of our population, we will be forever bled into believing that sacrilege is owed to the ‘she’ and not the collective conditioning we have been subjected to. To say it is to justify it and our androcentric dialect needs a new context. Once rape is referred to as a hate crime, the moral imperatives of our words will start to impact our actions, will fool us into reversing entrenched and misplaced fears of emancipation. Substituting our justifications with one word — hate — we are finally bringing some restitution to our reverence.

Our very dictum is repressive because it denies women the chance to defend themselves. Murder and sexual abuse do not belong in the same arena as honour. Victimhood is not the same as being ostracised and shame is not the same as sex. In a society as poorly educated as ours where mere words and syllables are entire textbooks of instruction, is it not necessary to reinvent the curriculum?

The year 2012 has been a particularly gruelling year for the Pakistani woman. We have seen the Kohistan jirga matter blow up in our face; shrouded in questions, we still do not know all the facts; were those five women really sentenced to death for dancing at a wedding? We have been reminded of prescribed rape time and again via jirga initiatives and reports indicate that domestic violence is at an all time high in our puritanical pacifism towards the female cause. Meanwhile, our slogan-bearing huffing and puffing televangelist representatives of divine interjection waste not a moment to form tehreeks and councils to man marches against minarets and NATO supply routes, but are moved to engineered silence when mothers, daughters and wives are beaten, scarred, killed and washed away. An Ahmadi ‘place of worship’ recently had its minaret bulldozed after it was imagined it mimicked real ‘Muslim’ mosques. I keep hoping for some sort of intervention, some sort of unified cry of admonishment, but maybe I am aiming too high; after all, my concerns have only to do with women.

Any parliamentary manoeuvre to steer the house towards introducing women-friendly bills is now little more than diplomatic baloney in this theatrical farce of moral progress. There are elements in the ruling coalition that counterplot any attempt to pass female friendly anti-violence bills. Life-altering laws that could mean the difference between life and death for a woman are termed as attempts to ‘westernise the Islamic family structure’. As if Islam needed a pilgarlic mascot for piety. Women and their rights have always been caught up in a stampede of rushed political jobs and patriarchal supremacy in a feeding frenzy where they have less to do with religion and more to do with being burdened under the male ego.

This is not four centuries ago when the witch trials engulfed medieval Europe in a barbaric free-for-all to cleanse society of the rot that was perceived as coming from woman alone. This is a new, more accountable world, where the penalty must fit the transgression. Rape in Pakistan is now flamboyant; a typically male-celebrated rite of passage presided over by lawless jirgas that have ordained victims and victors in a feast of festering morals. This must change. Lawmakers need to reverse our psychology, bringing women out of the commodity stock house and into the arena of rights and restitution. Rape is not a feature of Islam and the laws that are dictated by it; deterrence is.

Fines and threats are not enough in a society largely bolstered by brute force, punishments that complement the crime are. Repeat offenders in Texas are subjected to surgical castration if they are deemed unwilling to refrain. Florida and Louisiana are favouring chemical castration, as are Denmark, Sweden, Spain and the Czech Republic, for they know rapists will never reform. This is not way off the mark; sexual crimes deserve sexually inhibiting punishment. It happens to the Pakistani woman every day. She is attacked by acid, mutilated and scarred — all components of fragmenting her vanity — if she is perceived as unhinging from the hook of honour. Vanity is severed for the female and so potency should be parted from the masculine.

Every day our scions of justice, rights and piety manifest themselves on the streets fighting for causes that seem trivial when compared to the jagged depravity that is our deployed sexual nature. Our wayward dictation of how God wants us to treat our women is a darkening splotch on our humanity. The womb of our social construct needs a new education and it all boils down to one word: hate. Can we substitute it where it is most needed?

Daily Times