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Pakistani Media’s Hollow Uproar Desensitising Rape Issues

Overlooking an uncomfortable glare on the street, learning the art of leaving abominable conversations,  taking the long route to avoid dark alleys, rejecting that dream job because it requires late sittings, is just a few of the gazillion precautionary decisions women make every minute. They are not born to reject opportunities for safety, society makes them learn it laboriously. On a road, while driving, during the night and imagining the unimaginable is not a new normal for women.

Pakistan now ranks 6th in the list of the world’s most dangerous countries for women. From not letting the specialised doctor’s practice to killing the women for giving birth to a daughter, Pakistani society has rusted, and unfortunately, the only visible action by the decision-makers is tweeting. In Pakistan, rape is a crime with a prison sentence of 25 years and death penalty in some cases. Amongst the reported cases, the conviction rate is only 2%. This is as alarming and frustrating as it sounds.

The recent gang rape on a Motorway link road shocked the entire nation but the upsurge of the number of rape cases on everyday Television news is an alarming situation that is being conveniently ignored by the authorities. The provision of safety and security is the state’s responsibility, and our government cannot be free of this obligation despite their claims of economic downfall.

If we look at the major causes of this sudden rise in rape cases’ news on media every other day, the mind boggles. Either the media is exploiting the issue, or the victims have gathered enough strength to stand up. In both cases, justice is not being served. A handful of journalists did come forward and voice the issue to some extent. But unfortunately, the business of morning shows could not hold themselves from making more money and blatantly exploit the victims and their parents. Without going into the details of the media’s history of monstrosity, let us highlight the idea of victim-blaming which still prevails strongly in every socio-economic status.

Studies show that blaming the woman for being raped was initially a myth in various societies and eventually, took a form of an unsaid norm where if a woman is raped, she has caused it herself, and going to authorities will only prove futile.

Be it a Panchayat’s decision to rape a woman, killing the child after the abduction and raping him, or being raped by a very police officer, everything that we are witnessing is prompting one solution, to hold the culprit accountable.

Even though the only cause of rape is the rapist, most of the victims are frightened to report a rape case. Not only because it is

a social stigma but more so, the socially insensitive vocabulary inculcates the entire responsibility on the victim and the abuser is easily forgotten, e.g. ‘She was raped’ rather than ‘he raped her’. The victim is not only blamed but also questioned in a disgraceful manner and faces harassment while reporting the case.

Dragging the claims of converting the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ into ‘Riyast-e-Madina’ here seems primitive already. Therefore, we will stick to how such moral downfall should be handled by any government’s administration and families.

In Pakistani society, being harassed or abused by a relative or close friend is commonplace. The origin seems to be the communica-tion gap, the untaught concept of consent, and the so-called label of Badtameez (rude). Very rarely do the victims stand up to their abusers in case they are close relatives or family members and when they do, they are asked to stay silent to maintain the family’s Izzat (honor). This encourages the abuser and the evil never stops. Here, counseling will be effective for the children and confrontation for the adults.

Besides, it is high time to teach children about self-defense and self-awareness and schools should introduce mandatory classes for self-defense training. If we want to see the younger generation making better choices, this is the time. Counseling at a young age can do miracles and, in these circumstances, we as a nation, desperately need one.

Moreover, the process of collect-ing medical evidence by using the baseless and disrespectful two-finger test after the rape is a further trauma waiting in line to torment the victim.

The way Pakistani media has played a role in the desensitization of violence against women, we are too close to become numb. Calling rape cases fake, money making attempt, and a way to get foreign nationality is few amongst many statements that are not only part of our daily discussions but is used as an excuse to divert public’s attention from the actual perpetrator. It is so far fruitful because all we discuss are the parameters the victim should have taken to instead of blaming the rapist for his heinous act, which is a crime by law; a law that does not serve its purpose.

A while ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan called for the chemical castration of rapists. As soothing as it sounds, it is more of a temporary solution to a permanent problem. It is done so to calm the raging public rather than fix the system that is broken at every step. Some people believe awareness has created unfavorable circumstances for the rapists whilst others fear for their daughters – a harrowing reality in Pakistan we live in today.

Article by: Palwasha Khattak

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