As a child, I visited Pakistan every summer and winter, eagerly anticipating the warm welcomes and the satiating qormas.
Many things were foreign to me, but interacting in my broken Punjabi with hospitable people made the transition smooth. As enthusiastic as I was about assimilating, one thing continued to bother me tremendously.
Travelling to a bustling market during Ramazan, I was shocked by a sign outside a popular venue which read “Families only. No single males allowed”.
I saw a group of males being forcefully turned away by a security guard. At the time, the sense in this restriction eluded me and I was left perplexed.
As I grew older, though, I quickly discovered the answer: many men in Pakistan were suffering from sexual frustration.
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I have spoken to many men firsthand and find that a variety of factors are responsible for instigating sexual angst within our male population: growing illiteracy, combined with a lack of sexual education, limited male-female interaction, and paralysing poverty can lead to sexual angst within any society. The consequences are dire and engender dreadful sexual practices known to psychiatrists as 'paraphilias'.
The most common of these paraphilia, within Pakistan is known as Frotteurism, and is characterised by an obsession that involves rubbing parts of the body against unsuspecting and non-consenting individuals for the purpose of sexual gratification.
Most frotteurs are male and typically target women in busy, crowded places, often denying them the opportunity to respond, seek help or fight back. Women are left scarred as they have no outlet to voice their concerns. The emotional turmoil is immense, and as victims, they typically suffer years of post-traumatic stress with no treatment.
Unfortunately, law enforcement pays little to no attention to these growing acts of sexual violation. The claims of abuse made by women are readily dismissed and only further their suffering. Perpetrators are almost always let go and their despicable acts continue unhindered.
I recently spoke with a female who underwent the traumatic experience of being groped on a bus. She was tearful and embarrassed to share her story with me and has since developed agoraphobia – profound anxiety and fear when venturing into crowded spaces.
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A proper platform must exist to educate the masses about sexual education, gender equality, and women rights. In many neighboring countries like India, rape cases have led to nationwide protests and ultimately improvement of women’s rights.
Pakistan has yet to see a significant movement like the ones in neighbouring countries.
Gender segregation from childhood, inequality amongst parents, and the misrepresentation of the man-woman relationship in popular cinema all serve to propagate sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, in many Pakistani families, as soon as a male boy comes into existence, he is glorified and paraded through society as a savior. The golden boy is regarded as the chosen one and spoon-fed throughout life by his mother. I have spoken to many such boys and in the eyes of their mother, they can do absolutely no wrong.
It is ironic that although mothers are treated as divine objects within Pakistan, the growing male fails to respect members of his mother’s gender.
The male views his mother as a martyred dependent, often defenseless and demanding the care and security of a male. It is this relationship that allows males to feel superior and obligated to dominate other women around them.
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Popular movies frequently portray women as objects of sexual gratification, and subject them to continuous physical advances from males. While most individuals view movies as far-fetched from reality; many young males consider movie stars to be their role-models and heroes. The movies display the constant submission of women, and showcase the lascivious desires of men.
Women face continuous marginalisation throughout all aspects of life. Gender equality must be recognised and sexual frustration must be curbed. Laws must be established to protect women now.
If we fail to recognise and address this issue, we are directly jeopardising women; we are willingly silencing them.