Obscenity in the ‘Land of the Pure’
A mobile video clip allegedly showing a woman "nude, committing objectionable acts" has forced her to flee Pakistan.
“I saw some people whispering after seeing something on a mobile phone. One of them showed me the video on the phone in which she was fully nude and committing objectionable acts. She not only made a film of those acts but also widely circulated it via mobile phone, thus hurting the young generation and the morals of society,” said an irate complainant.
The man, Chaudhry Muhammad Khan, registered an FIR against a female lawyer under Sections 292 and 294 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The two sections deal with the punishable offences of the sale, distribution, public exhibition, production or possession of obscene material.
The woman in question could not initially find a lawyer to defend her. Her family did not want her around anymore, she was fired from work and the Lahore Bar Association apparently threatened to cancel her membership if she did not quit. After getting bail she had to go into hiding. Now she has flown to the UK where she has been granted asylum.
This is outrageous, on so many levels. One, we have to stop pretending that we are ‘pure’ people and we have to stop meting out selective punishment to a person of our choosing.
Two, even if the video clip was authentic (the woman’s lawyer vehemently denies that), the two sections of the PPC deal with not just the production of obscene material but also the distribution, public exhibition and possession of it. So why weren’t the people who circulated the video and the complainant himself booked?
And what about the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty?’ The woman was ostracised before her guilt was proven in a court of law. She was a lawyer herself and yet her own community abandoned her. She was told that her LBA licence would be cancelled. Anywhere else in the world, the woman would have had recourse to justice. She could have pleaded wrongful termination and probably won.
I try my utmost not to bring in gender discrimination but what else can explain this? I cannot help but wonder if things would have been different had there been a man as ‘easily identified’ as the woman. Most probably the video would still have circulated, maybe as widely, but no one would have been taken to court.
Not too long ago, former president Pervez Musharraf said that some women in Pakistan claim to be raped just so they could claim asylum in the West. The SHO in this case said a similar thing.
Our sense of right and wrong is warped, as is our notion of justice. We are the people who promise to put right everything that the last government did wrong, but on gaining power, instead of dealing with current crises, keep allocating the blame to the ‘previous government.’ We fail to stand up for a judge in the right because we are too threatened by the violent, threatening black coats.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2010.