In his article published in the The Tribune on 16 June 2015, Hashim Bukhari has rightly pointed out to a very serious issue that merits attention at the highest level. He writes: “Sex crimes are not merely results of overarching moral corruption or lack of religiosity. Often there are substantial underlying causes which need to be addressed before any possible strategy for their eradication, or containment, is to be devised.”
In our country, cleansing is a process whereby dirt collected from sweeping the floors is brushed under the carpet. This is an indication of concealing filth, rather than exposing it and then getting rid of it in the best possible manner. How easy it is to cover one’s eyes when faced with a problem and how difficult it is to look it straight in the eye with the objective of holding the bull by its horns! We in Pakistan love to portray ourselves as the perfect emblem of morality, decency and uprightness since we associate ourselves with a religion that emphasizes upon these traits. In fact, we like to spend our lives in a make-believe land where all is beautiful and serene, conveniently disregarding the existence of evil and sludge flourishing under this skin-deep demeanor.
In order to find appropriate remedies it is vital to identify the issues first then search for causes. We, however, tend to provide solutions first, through ineffective legislations and that too propounded by people who have little or no knowledge about the matter. The resulting enactments are aimed more at retribution instead of seeking impactful, long-term and far-reaching outcomes. Consequently, some things never get the chance to settle down in a proper manner while the infliction grows to critical proportions, rendering the common man’s life miserable. We also believe that the sterner the punishment, the more detrimental effect it would have on potential perpetrators, which is incorrect, as proven by experience, otherwise, as someone has rightly pointed out: all jails would have been empty by now. It is the certainty of punishment that creates the real deterrence, which our system lacks and because of which, crime remains unchecked.
A very crucial issue that faces young people and females in particular is sexual perversity. This is obvious from the long list of hundreds of registered cases of rape, gang rape, violation of dead bodies, child molestation, incest, female and child trafficking, prostitution, pornography, etc. There cannot be any estimate of those that are not reported. This is a sad reflection on a society that claims moral superiority by taking pride in its traditional customs and values. Despite this outer façade, existence of such depravity is a serious symptom of sickness that cries for immediate attention of those who matter.
Human beings are born with certain instincts (physical and mental desires, in more simplistic terms) that are complex patterns of behavior distinct from reflexes. These instincts require fulfillment but there are specific norms, when observed, create that distinction which differentiates humans from animals. In other words, whereas animals act with spontaneity without considering their outcomes, humans are expected to act with prudence in satisfying these inert desires. This is where the need arises to direct humans on the right tract through education and good preparation. The first seat of learning is the mother and then family comes in but what if there are fundamental flaws within this group?
Pakistan is divided into two broad societies, the modern urban and the traditional/conservative rural where the major proportion of the population is based. According to the available data, 67% of all people, both urban and rural, fall in the category of those living below poverty line. This means that they are condemned to dwell in extremely shabby homes with little or no access to modern facilities. Whether located in cities, towns or villages these consist mainly of a single room with a small verandah and courtyard where parents (even grandparents), children, many a times uncles and aunts endure a hard life. Some of the rich landowners are guilty of exploiting the tillers and his family by giving such an outhouse on their agricultural lands.
Under these bleak circumstances where couples are deprived of privacy what kind of messages are being sent to minors with impressionable minds, who may never have the opportunity to consciously understand the secrets of life. Besides, when basic instincts come into play, chances of sexual abuse and incest rise to horrendous levels. Experts in psychology believe that sexual inclinations grow out of childhood encounters and deviation from normal sexual behavior is what makes people pervert. Quoting EA Bennet, Anayat Baig wrote in his paper ‘Correlations of Sexual Perversion in Pakistani Society’: “Sexual depravity reflects a disappointment in individual and social coordination.” This is a very bold research paper that uncovers the hideous face of our society. Full credit goes to the author for unfolding the myth of morality as it exists in our so-called conservative set-up.
Amazingly, the bulk of cases concerning sexual depravity or deviance occurs in the rural areas where mostly young females, children (boys and girls), handicapped persons, the dead and even animals are victims. Without eliminating causes that are already engraved in the family system, the elders are quick to pass judgements against the perpetrators and in worse situations even the victims are punished as provided in the Hudood Ordinance, 1979, if the police happen to get involved.
Looking away from facts of life, does not change reality. One would like to imagine that religion provides answers to all problems and that putting on a particular religious garment would deceive the masses into trusting whatever these beguilers say and do. However, from times immemorial, scandals related to churches, mosques, temples etc. have blown the fallacy behind this piety. One does not have to pretend to be pious to be ethical. A non-believer or non-conformist can have stronger notions of propriety therefore, rather than stressing on making children outwardly religious, emphasis should be placed on their good grooming and ethical standards.
The government’s role in this entire scenario relates to providing better housing facilities for the poor in particular. A minimum criterion needs to be laid down. Presently there is a big gap between palatial houses with many rooms housing single-digit inmates and one-room abodes with multitude of family members. Priority of the construction industry should not be to just build huge skyscraper apartments for city dwellers but to improve living conditions of the deprived sector of society. The government should provide special incentives to those who have the capability to construct proper houses for villagers. This would help in taking care of a malaise that is eroding the roots of the health, both physical and mental, of our society. Besides, it is about time that rather than shy away from basic instincts, institutions should be given the authority to conduct special courses on sex education, specifically when erotic content on the internet, electronic media, the stage and books is freely available.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)