Rape and Speech


*Originally published in The Daily Times.

Rape.  A word whose four letters fail in doing justice to the gravity and intensity of the monstrosity that violates the physical, psychological, emotional, mental and sexual being of an individual for a lifetime.

However, in recent years, the appropriation of the word ‘rape’ as an adjective has taken on the form of commonality with widespread usage being quick to follow on both the internet and everyday conversations.

In line with the inevitable, the transformation of something into a commonality often renders the need to halt and understand its meaning, significance and implications nugatory; because they have been so easily accommodated into the linguistic or social culture that their true recognition escapes from our mental sight.

Similar has been the case with rape which is seen to be inserted in conversations to ‘lighten’ them up or convey the unfavourable intensity of a happening, especially by the youth of both sexes.

However, using rape as an adjective in supposed humour is nothing less than an acceptance and approval for rape itself; for what is being thrown into process by this practice is the effective normalization of the inhumanity of rape through its trivialization.

Using rape to describe the humiliating defeat of a sports team; to convey the extent of an exam paper gone bad have been heard or seen once by most, if not often.

By reducing an act as vicious, as cruel, as fiendish as rape to a source or adjective of amusement; its true nature and character is consigned to trivialization. It then appears to be an occurrence minor enough to be employed as a comical instrument.

Nadir Hasan, in his article titled ‘Rape and Rhetoric’ published in the Express Tribune on 23RD December 2010, wrote:

‘Whether through moral blindness, callowness or unfamiliarity with the issue, by treating rape as a provocation rather than an act of aggression we allow this attitude to diffuse throughout society. Think of how many times you have used rape as a punchline to a joke that nobody should laugh at, but too many do….One such joke may seem harmless but collectively they contribute to make rape seem like something less than a violent crime.’

With an Indonesian judge remarking that women may actually enjoy rape and a Microsoft employee making a rape joke at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), it is understood that this problem does not limit itself to Pakistan. However, this linguistic trivialization of rape is part of the wider rape culture and culture of violence terribly prevalent in places like Pakistan. It is an element of the rape culture that, as Nadir Hasan stated and asks to be reiterated, ‘treats rape as a provocation rather than an act of aggression’; that seeks to place the blame of the crime upon the victim instead of the perpetrator; that seeks not to stop rape but stop people from being raped; that seeks possible causes for the barbarity in order to explain it as an act that was reactive or unavoidable; in order to refuse its whole-hearted acknowledgement as a barbarity.

Rebecca Edwards, a rape survivor herself, wrote in her piece titled ‘The Funny Thing About Rape Jokes’:

[Upon hearing a rape joke or rape being used to describe something] ‘I am reminded of how my rapist laughed when he was finished with me.’

So the next time you think of or hear someone throwing around rape as an adjective and in petty humor, think of and remind them of 5-year old Sumbul who was brutally raped several times last year in Lahore and India’s Jyoti Singh, who succumbed to the savagery.

Think of the 10,703 raped in the past five years in Pakistan.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

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I Am A Traitor. I Am A RAW Agent. I am A Kafir. I Am A Pakistani With An Awakened Conscience.


Winston Churchill once said,

‘’You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’’

A slightly simplified or altered version of this quote goes:

“A person who has no enemies never stood up for anything or anyone.”

It may be universally true but for Pakistan, I ‘reshape’ the quote to; If you’ve never been called a Kafir, traitor, RAW or MOSSAD Agent, it means you’ve never stood up for anything.

And today I’ll confess what makes me liable to be labelled any of the aforementioned terms on the virtual world.

I am a traitor for I chose to speak.

I am part of the ‘Fifth column of the enemy’ for I question the military establishment, its adventurism, ploys and doctrines that have become our strategic death. I am a RAW Agent for it agonizes me to see the oppression being carried out in Balochistan by no one else but this country’s own security apparatus and agencies and so I clamor against it.

I am a liberal fascist for I refuse to bear the hypocrisy that compels me to vociferate against brutal killings of innocents in Iraq, of Palestinians and other places; but  remain in deliberate oblivion and silence about the persecution and killings of Shias, Hindus, Ahmedis and Christians in Pakistan.

I am a traitor for I  question the silence on murders of the Baloch, Hazara, Tooris & other oppressed groups.
I am a traitor for I challenge questionable customs, traditions, myths and practices that have made this society and many lives rot away for too long.

I am a Kafir for I dare to reclaim my religion from the Mullahs. I am a disbeliever for I admire Abdus Salam and Sir Zafarullah Khan and have the audacity to express my rightful desire for them to be honored by all. I am worthy of being consigned to hell because I do not judge and determine who is a Muslim, to what extent and who isn’t. I am a disbeliever and a damned-to-hell liberal because somewhere in my confabulations there may be secularist undertones.
I am on a payroll for I do not ascribe every happening in my country to external forces or hidden hands and yet vociferate against the greatest of dangers and threats this country faces from within.

I am a traitor for I gladly rip away the locks imposed on my lips by orchestrated  ‘patriotism’ that shuns the voice of  my thoughts from translating into words of concern for what happens in this country of mine.

I am a RAW Agent trying to constantly ruin the country’s image for I draw attention to the misery of minorities in Pakistan in hope of the people realizing the importance of the well-being and freedoms of those to whom the white of our flag is dedicated.

I am a traitor for I chose to speak up. I am a traitor for I am a Pakistani with an awakened conscience.

‘Lack of success does not justify the crime of silence in the face of criminal, arbitrary power.’ ~ Eqbal Ahmad

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Pakistan’s Image Insecurity and The ‘Aal Iz Well’ Syndrome


As written before:

‘Since the onset of Pakistan’s engagement in the War on Terror, the country nosedived in its entirety; politically, socially and economically. Not only was this unfortunate plunge a harbinger of possibly, the worst of times for it but heralded the introduction of a gamut of negative stereotypes in relation to Pakistan and its citizens.

Largely owing to the almost-routinely involvement of Pakistan or any individual with even a faint connection to it in incidents or reports of terrorism, the spread of these stereotypes fixed its image as ‘The most dangerous place on Earth’’

This particular instance had consequential effects on both sides; of the Pakistanis and the rest of the world.

Concerning the latter, [ for most of them ] Pakistan’s picture became what was a hodge-podge of stereotypes and words such ranging from terrorism, terrorists to poverty, illiteracy and bloodshed.

For the Pakistanis, grivieances were nurtured of being portrayed in the single shade of negativity in international media, an obejction or grouse justifed at times, while many ventured and are venturing to show the ‘real’ image [ As said in the Pakistani lingo ] and positive angle of their country.

With each passing day, as the worsening of Pakistan’s state ensured its quick descent into chaos with degeneration in every quarter of the country – certain approaches developed amongst the people – one of them associated with ‘insecurity of image’, after being swung onto a somewhat defensive edge by the quick spin of events involving the country.

This evolved into an attitude relating to ‘Hear no evil, Speak no evil, See no Evil’ [ Which in some interpretations, ‘is used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance.’ ]. Many Pakistanis chose to shut their ears, close their eyes and sew their lips to silence when it came to the ills in the society and country. This has eventually lead to a self-concoted national ignorance, that has inevitably given birth to a sociteal conspiracy of silence.


As the numbers who chose to immerse themselves in this practise grew, a culture of shame, conspiracy theories, denialism and dogmatism flourished with it due to which any pinching incidents or facts that proffered chances for clamant introspection were tossed away by the dismissive wave of a hand after much nugatory tub-thumping and dramatic statements on the media by individuals.

With the PTA reporting over 22 million Pakistani internet users, which is about 12% of the total 180 million population, this concept and societal mindset slid onto the virtual world.

Plenty of these Pakistanis have been vociferating their opinion that no news regarding the country should be posted or discussed on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter [ where many have friends from other countries ] that sharpens the features of the poor picture that lots hold globally of Pakistan. This is the extent of the ‘image insecurity’.

One wonders how would the prevention of posting unfavourable Pakistanis news [ Say, cases of the treatment of minorities here, rape victims etc ] on these sites from reaching a handful of foreign people help in this digital age and era of electronic media where even a minor happenings are broadcasted or published through hundreds of channels and sites to millions all around the world within split seconds of their occurance.

Also, as of yet Pakistan has, in fact – no image at all. And it is food for thought, that if social networking sites could be tools for revolution, can’t they be instruments to stir a societal change? It is defined, that societies are the footing for nations that inhabit countries. Any change within the society will affect the nation which will inevitably reform/rebuild Pakistan’s perception positively that will come in its ripple effect.

But for that, the bizarre approach needs to abandoned. Pakistanis must shed the guise of ignorance and keeping mum while being cognizant about plagues and cultural malaises.

The people must be made aware of the innumberable and untold stories and issues stinging the core of Pakistan’s culture, society, politics and nation. They must be awakened from this sleep of dormancy that has been prolonged for too long a time, 64 years.

Debate should be initiated about them at all forums [ The internet, the streets, national media or at homes ] after this.
One of the reasons for the palpable and glaringly low tolerance in Pakistan is the absence of debate and arguments among people, which has helped to foster and instill a proclivity in each person for sheer insularity and unwillingness to hear opposing views – that if heard, are answered by profiling [ labelling someone as a RAW/MOSSAD/CIA Agent or a ‘liberal facist’ ] , judgements and fatwas rather than refuted by facts.

The stimulation of discussions will so, instill gradually a sense of open-mindedness along with stirring people to comprehend the situations, think, measure their words and then freely express their opinions.

Debates might also commence into finding solutions for the problems they are based on and individual efforts may be encouraged to apply those. Joint efforts may also be made. And the more the pandemonium and clamor of the people is, the more it is bound to reach the corridors of power and ensure decisive action.

There is an idiom in Urdu; Kabotar ka billi ko dekh kar ankhein band kar lena.
‘The shutting of eyes by the pigeon as he spots the cat’.

Some expound it as one’s turning away after seeing a difficulty. This might just be what the aforementioned Pakistanis are doing.

By averting one’s gaze from a problem [ Not accepting the existence of or talking about it ], it does not dissolve it. It needs to be faced. Pakistanis need to yield the need to identify conundrums, national dilemmas and social contaminations for only when they are recognized as problems, does one seek a remedy to be extricated from them.

The lean line separating resilience from indifference also needs to be accentuated and compreheneded. Pakistanis have begun to dwell more into the realm of the latter than the former. To be struck by bomb attacks, blasts and natural calamities and again get back and continue life with the same vigour is resilience but to see myriad cases of rape, discrimination against minorities, a selective genocide against the Baloch and yet remain silent – is shameful apathy.

Being lulled into a state of false security and satisfaction by not raising your voice against wrongdoings, thus they are not brought into the light of scrutiny and attention as they derserve to be, will only stoke the fire of such perversions and injustices for those committing it would certainly be basking in the knowledge of the nation’s propensity to remain indifferent towards them.

And as Sana Saleem wrote in one of her ever-brilliant articles;

‘The mindset that believes that acknowledging our issues is threatening to our ‘image’. What good is an image, other than deceiving ourselves, is another question altogether.’

Pakistanis have acquiesced with whatever has swept the country for too long and it has cost them too much.

Or as Ayaz Amir penned in his thought-provoking and must-read ‘Woes of an Ostrich Republic’;

‘Islam is not the state religion of Pakistan, denial is. And our national emblem should be the ostrich, given our proclivity to bury our heads in the sand and not see the landscape around us as it is.’

It will be nugatory to tart up Pakistan’s image for the world and act for them and for ourselves [ in betrayal of reality and as an ode to denialism ] as if everything is ‘Aal Iz Well’ while succumbing to the death-knell of destruction in the country due to national apathetic torpor that binds us in bondage of inertia relating to the situations in the country.

~ Hafsa Khawaja