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.

Aatekah Mir-khan November 21, 2010

“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.

Aatekah Mir Khan A graduate of the London School of Economics and a Daniel Pearl fellow, the writer is a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune in Lahore. aatekah.khan@tribune.com.pk
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Mohammad Usama Rehman | 12 years ago | Reply what has gone wrong with us.....I just cant figure this out!! After reading your article I feel hugely disappointed and embarassed, especially from the side of my gender. We say we are Muslims!! Thats how we prove our claims! No, things have to change, and in order to see a change in our socities we have to ''be'' the change ourselves. Its not only one sexs' mistake, when there is smoke there is fire!! We just cant blame either male or females of our societies, because we have been doing this for tooo long but to no result. the women would have to be their own guardians, the have to watch their steps, their behaviours, and especially their attitude towards life......they need to get educated, groomed and well-informed and form their own forums for their rights! whereas for men, education and their attitudes needs to be corrected through correct Islamic teachings, and the must divert their energies into physical activities!!! lastly Punishments are really very integral!! without which things cannot be set right!!!
Adnan Khan | 13 years ago | Reply This article is such a goof! I don't know if the irony of it all has trickled down to our dear writer, as yet. . First, when such acts, which fall under "moral turpitude" are publicized about an individual, they are ostracized by their community and terminated from prestigious positions, in a blink of an eye. Not just in Pakistan, but in the US as well, where gender/sexual discrimination laws are the most revised and developed. I can give you several examples, one where a former pornstar who had left the biz years ago and was teaching in school, was removed as soon as she was 'outed'. Judges have lost their seats, congressmen their offices, even presidential candidates have had to step down. . Second, all your article proves is that Musharraf was right! this woman, instead of facing the music, fighting the 'false allegations', she fled to the west and applied for asylum. Now she can legally make such movies and earn a comfortable living. . . Adnan Khan
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