Red, White and Black

Leering : the ever young fad of Pakistani men
23 November, 2006, 12:14 pm
Filed under: general, Pakistan

No, I am not looking for a fight here. And yes, I know that there are many gentlemen out there. But. Sadly, there is just not enough of them in my country.

Though things are considerably improved over the last few years, but it is still considered unthinkable for girls/young women to venture out alone after dark. The poor thing will be stalked, leered at and eve-teased! Actually, the night factor does not make a difference. This will happen either way. And Burqa or no burqa, that still makes no difference. The girl is, but a sexual object for a common Pakistani man.

Take this article by Kamran Shafi. [I do sometimes, feel that he complains a little too much but on this count I cannot but nod my head to his piece.] Consider:

In short, the Land of the Pure is as inhospitable a place as any in the world for women tourists, particularly farangi women tourists. Let me look at it through the eyes of my old friend Katrina, and new friend Jo, who visited us from New Zealand just two weeks ago. For myself, I can’t even begin to tell you what a difficult time I had taking the two around in the Islamic Republic.

There was no place we went: Peshawar or Lahore or Islamabad the Beautiful where the two ladies were not stared at incessantly. The starers were not only your ordinary man on the street but also policemen, and in one case army soldiers travelling in the back of an army truck on the GT Road behind which we got stuck. You name ‘em, and they stared; oh, how they stared.

In almost every case, and I have upset fellow columnist Angela Williams saying this once before, the leerer’s hand strayed you-know-where; there to stay until my companions and I were out of sight. Complimenting the straying hand was the look on the Yahoos’ faces, bordering on something between insolence and vulgarity and tawdriness, a small mocking smile playing on their lips.

Yelch! Why is it that the Pakistani men cannot think of women as anything other than as sexual objects?! And yes, by and large these are ‘Muslim’ men. And yes, they cover up their women in a chaaddar or a burqa, but is that any good?! Every step taken by her is rigorously monitored by filthy eyes. You go to a crowded place and there is every chance in the world that you will be leered at, felt up or pinched! Why?!

For the life of me I cannot understand, where this comes from! Before you say that it is education, I would preempt you and say NO! Ever seen a group of young college boys, standing around the corner of a street or outside a girls college, indulging in “poondi”?! I have. Suffered through the ignominy! And this is just one sophisticated way of putting it. So no, it has nothing to do with education or the lack of thereof!

It has to do with our values and mores. For an avowedly Islamic society, we are shockingly devoid of even the most basic morals! Take the example of a typical college boy. While he will bristle and fume if his sister is ever teased or harassed, but it would perfectly okay for him to do so with another girl! Take this hypocrisy to another level. While many “pious” men would consider it sinful for a Muslim woman to pose in a bikini but they can easily leer the night away looking at bikini wearing non-Muslim women. What on earth?!!

It is a perverted hayaless mindset that prevails. And it is nothing but a social product of forced piety and haya. In our over zealousness, we have never looked to impart the very basic norms about human dignity and respect to our children. Therein, lies the root of this problem. And that is also why I don’t see times changing. A sad fact of life in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.


15 Comments so far
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kia baat hai naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa….


No, actually, great work up there.

Comment by Z

Am from ur neighbouring country… the things you mention are unfortunately prevelant this side of the border too…

any thoughts on possible solutions?

Comment by Dazzler

I don’t agree with Kaamran Shafi and dare to disagree with you as well. Leering comes natural to a man and has got nothing to do with men in Pakistan or Zambaweeeeeee.

On the other hand, it depends upon the back ground one comes from. Any person from nicer background will not do this.

Comment by shirazi

I think this fascination with eve teasing and degrading behaviour towards women stems from the fact that Pakistan (or India for that matter) is a closed society when it comes to sex. Liberate it and you will see a marked difference in behaviour. These kinds of activities are absent in the liberal countries (western europe, North America, etc) establishing an inverse relationship between liberal-ism and violence towards women. Read this if you want more.

Comment by IAmMine

wow!! my last comment disappeared. and it gives no such notification as: “Comment moderation is ‘ON'”. Hope it didn’t vanish into thin air.

Comment by IAmMine

ok. I guess I mucked up with the comment previous to the previous one.

What I wanted to say is that there seems to be a direct relationship between sex crimes against women and how liberal a society is. Pak / India falls into the conservative category and both countries (like ALL other conservative cultures/countries) exhibit high rates of sex crime, especially like the ones u mention in your post (which one does not report to the cops, like a rape charge). Read this if you want more:

Comment by IAmMine

Aah IAmMine! Found your comment in the spam bin. And despamed!

Comment by ayesha

Addressing “IAmMine” – valid thought but isnt that true for every ancient culture/civilization ?

Most ancient cultures indicate non liberal attitudes due to the times prevailing then… unfortunately, the times have cchanged but the cultural thought has not evolved…

Again – your thoughts on how best to address this would be much appreciated..

Comment by Dazzler

i will just say a dilogue from a Movie Parsdes
“Tum loogo ki marsdoo ki Society alag, Ortoon (women) ki society alag lakin bachee peieda karne mien tum ne recoard bana diya

Comment by cutthroat

I disagree with the assumption that ‘ancient’ civilizations were not liberal when it come to sex. On the contrary, most ancient civilizations celebrated sex. It was a part of their (pagan) religion, culture & customs. Greek God Aphrodite, Roman God Venus, Hindu Gods Kaama & Rati, Shiva (Linga –> Phallus Symbol) … (list endless in Hinduism) are testaments to the ancients’ liberal attitude. Temples (both in Hindu and other cultures) were adorned with sculptures of consummation and perfect bodies. Not to mention books like the Kama Sutra.

The stigmatization of sex is associated with the advent of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity). The views on sex in each of these religions has evolved to either preach celibacy or sexist views of sex itself. It also saw the downplaying of women in society (none of these religions allow positions of power (like a pastor/mullah) to be held by women).

With regard to the subcontinent, Mughal invasions paved the way for Islam. Many Islamic traditions rubbed onto Hindu society. For example, the Purdah system of North India originated around this time. Then came the imposition of Victorian conservative values from the British. This is not to say that there were not any sexist values in Hinduism, but they certainly got a huge boost from other philosophies and the glorious days of the Kama Sutra and gender equality became relics of a bygone era.

There are two aspects to reformation today: Societal and Religious. On the societal front, research by sociologists points towards a lift on the ban / legalization of pornography, prostitution and all things sex. Remove them from shanty towns and back alleys and make them a part of mainstream, regulate them to ensure safety of industry workers and customers … Apart from immediate family and friends, depiction of women in the media plays a big role in the young male’s attitude towards women and media leaves a lot to be desired.

On the religious front, its time that the men in positions of power (mullahs/pastors etc) stopped hiding behind radical renditions of texts and preach fair treatment of women. For example, in Islamic scholarship, Hijab is given the wider meaning of modesty, privacy, and morality. But it is often interpreted as actual covering which is very unfair to women. The practice of dowry and stigmatization of widows, although banned by law, continues unabated among Hindus. Priests responsible for marriages and last rites can have a major impact if they start preaching against such practices.

At my above suggestions, many shrug and claim it to be impractical in the East. For the pessimist, look at the west. Just 3 centuries back, women who started playing a more active role in society were conveniently accused to be witches and burnt at the stake. The same countries today have close to impeccable records on gender equality issues. Thats a 180 degree turn in 5-6 decades (Women’s liberation movement began in the fifties). Lets hope the same for our land.

Comment by IamMine

@ Shirazi:
“Leering comes natural to a man and has got nothing to do with men in Pakistan or Zambaweeeeeee.”

Research on male and female libido has shown that, contrary to prevalent thought, one is no more than the other.

What your statement does reflect is a sexist attitude that is conveniently used to veil your women. Very disappointing attitude from an educated man!

Comment by IamMine

This seems to be evovling into a nice discussion and I do have two cents to share – but owing work compulsions will do so in a day or two. Interesting thoughts, IAmMine!

Comment by ayesha

All the crap attitude of men that u mention occurs in India too

Comment by Rahul Mulchandani

Actually…. it ain’t just the men that leer anymore, i have seen women do so often..just not in as obvious a way as men do it. However your post is correct in the case of perhaps a lot of our males, they have been brought up on a steady diet of frustration and chauvinism. Its also a proven fact that the visual inputs are what do it for a man…. the other senses kind of go numb.

Comment by Faisal K

I think this type of leering is very peculiar and possibly only confined to the sub-continent; possibly other parts of the Muslim world but no where to the same extent. I have had similar experiences of sheer embarrassment before my friends from overseas.

In our society, because of religious dogma mostly with some cultural misgivings thrown in for good measure, sexual frustration has always been an issue. This is perhaps less so in rural communities than in urbanised environments. The reason has something to do with a relatively free mixing of the sexes in villages, as often amongst the peasantary, women have to work in the outdoors as much as men. Also, I found that my cousins/friends etc from villages attained sexual maturity, including contacts with the opposite gender of a sexual nature, earlier than in cities. Most of them ceased to be virgins, even before marriage, in their late teens; call me a cynic but theer would have to be an equivalent number of members of the female sex involved here too; perhaps a point to ponder for the puritans!

I strongly feel that ancient cultures WERE far more forward in those terms in practically every society in the world. The Abrahamic faith of Judaism, and its more recent derivatives namely Christianity and Islam, are the ones that created these taboos and basically have had nothing to offer in return! Thankfully in the west, because of a general atmosphere of free-thinking and less influence of the supernatural in daily lives, things eased up a bit. Our Muslim world, still very much incarcerated in the dark ages in most matters of free intellect, simply cannot move on. This is also reflected in the attitude of Muslims in the west; if it hadn’t been the issues regarding sex, they probably would not have had any issues integrating in their respective societies; and as with everything else in the Islamic world, the onus always falls on the female half of the population!!

Comment by Akram Cheema

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