Rape & Pak confused sexuality

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Dr M Ahmed Abdullah

RAPE has existed since antiquity, and has been used as a tool for inciting fear through violence. The Greek god Zeus has at least three rapes attributed to his name. Genghis Khan was so fond of the act and spreading his DNA that according to some estimates, 0.5% of the global male population in today’s world carries some of his genetic material. Sexual violence has also been used a tool of war, after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 the term Sexual Terrorism was coined. Africa has had a major rape epidemic over the decades, with South Africa being at the heart of this terrible trend. The western world is also plagued by this social disease; almost 15-20% women in the United States have faced sexual abuse at least once in their lifetime. India has also been suffering from a rape epidemic over the past few decades, closely followed by Pakistan.
Recently an extremely unfortunate and repugnant incident occurred on one of Pakistan’s Motorways, which has negatively influenced every sane person. Sadly this is not a singular episode; it is simply one in the long list of ongoing events. This one got reported and received instant media attention. On most occasions such occurrences remain unreported and inconclusive. As a primary reflex my first response was filled with anger, frustration and hatred. I imagined painful ways of punishing the assailants, to the point that I had to question my own sanity. I decided to refrain from an immediate response and read and meditated instead. Our sexuality defines many aspects of who we are. For some it is their major identification, for others a secret. All great minds in the field of psychology, have studied, in detail how our sexual desires and preferences often compel us to make short term and long term decisions, with positive and negative outcomes. Taking it a step further the field of Behavioural Biology gets into the details of our behaviours and explain them through hormones, neurotransmitters and other physiological functions of the human animal.
Rape is a serious criminal offence and cannot be simply shoved under the veil of psychological disorders. Even though sex is the main motive, it is actually the feeling of empowering another human being, and feeling strong with reference to the victims; that compels people to make such attempts. The worst thing about rape is that it reduces humans with ideas, thoughts, desires and aspirations to mere objects of sexual gratification. I can understand how the psychological anomalies of a single individual can force him or her to commit such crimes, but the problem attains a much broader spectrum when groups of men get together to plan and execute such heinous activities. There seems to be something wrong with the social set-up which facilitates such actions. The factors that influence someone to become a rapist are diverse; they include childhood exposures, pre-existing mental health conditions, peer pressure, use of psychoactive substances, hormones, cultural factors and socio-environmental triggers. According to the American Psychologist Dr. Samuel D. Smithyman, three common features found in many rapists include; a lack of empathy, self obsession/narcissism and feelings of hostility towards women.
By definition rape is forcing someone into a sexual act through the use of physical force or coercion. The former often grabs more attention due to its gruesome nature, but the later is often ignored. In July 2019, the BBC reported a major sex scandal in the Afghan Government, where men in power use their authority to force working women into sexual relationships. The main interviewee of the investigation pointed out a very important concept, through a simple statement, as a working woman; every man wants to have sex with you. There is a very toxic sexual culture in our part of the world; one that is filled with confusion, frustration and violence. We constantly hear the cries for help, where women, children and men are being forced into unwanted sexual relationships. These stories can be heard from schools, universities, religious seminaries, police establishments, public and private offices, transportation facilities and hospitals. We contemplate harsh punishments for sexual offenders, while we simultaneously continue to make rape jokes and normalize harassment. Culture is defined as learned behaviour; everything we observe in our surroundings influences us. The culture around sexuality in Pakistan is confusing to say the least, and after the introduction of social media things have gone haywire, where quite often young people confuse sexual objectification and notoriety with fame and admiration. This culture has been built on a long legacy of cinematic creations by both India and Pakistan; however movies are not the only cultural influencers.
The solution lies in careful planning and education. An intense and aggressive response to crimes like rape and molestation would definitely provide the immediate sense of poetic justice to the population, but systematic changes are needed. We need to change the behaviours of our people, especially men. We need to teach our children about their own bodies and how our changing hormones can influence our decisions and actions. We need to tell them about the red flags. Sex offender registers are also needed. Consequently physical and psychological rehabilitation of victims is absent on all levels. Many children who face sexual abuse have the potential of growing up to be sex offenders in the future. We need to tackle this complicated problem through evidence based decision making. Lastly I would like to point out the fact that our forensic practices in cases of sexual crimes date back to the British colonial era. They are primitive, insensitive and humiliating for the victims, and require immediate and robust attention.
—The writer is Assistant Professor Public Health, Islamabad Medical and Dental College.