By Aziz Ali Dad
When a society and its values become weaker, it denies existence of maladies within and attributes exogenous actors and factors for its own condition. This bent of mind in its turn begets a gamut of fallacies, sick morality, bad faith, weak metaphors and vocabulary that hides more than reveal by enunciating its stance towards social diseases. As a result false consciousness permeates in society. An idea or entity based on falsity cannot make the society healthy. Similarly, the values and taboos of a society with false consciousness and bad faith cannot create a healthy mind. Because of bad faith most of the people in Pakistan are either in denial of existence of child abuse in society or deem it anathema to discuss.
“Child sexual abuse has become a part of subculture of Gilgit-Baltistan’s society… it is occurring even in the remotest parts of rural areas.”
According to a report 2,322 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Pakistan between January and June 2018 compared to 1,764 incidents recorded the same period in 2017, indicating a 32pc increase in the crime. According to Sahil, a non-government organisation working for child rights, more than 12 children were abused every day. In its annual report ‘Cruel Numbers 2017’ Sahil noted that 3,445 children were sexually abused in 2017. Among them 2,077 were girls and 1,368 were boys. These statistics are culled from the cases reported in 91 local, regional and national newspapers. In reality, the malaise of child abuse is rampant in every part of Pakistan. Although the statistics provided by Sahil show 3 cases of child sexual abuse in 2017 in Gilgit-Baltistan, the menace of sexual abuse of children is pervasive in its society.
Child sexual abuse has become a part of subculture of Gilgit-Baltistan’s society. Since the society is under the influence of false consciousness and values, its members are in denial mode that such an evil exists within. There is a common tendency to attribute prevalence of child sexual abuse to the disintegration of organic communities and emergence of urbanisation wherein people from disparate background inhabit same space without a common glue to gel them together for healthy interaction. There might be an element of truth in it, but child sexual abuse is occurring even in the remotest parts of rural areas in Gilgit-Baltistan.
In the second week of November 2018, local newspapers reported three cases of child sexual abuse. Out of these, two cases were reported from villages. The reported cases are minuscule as compared to real incidences of child sexual abuse. So it can be said that the malaise of child sexual abuse is deeply rooted within the culture of Gilgit-Baltistan. If we delve deep into the cultural practices, deconstruct the language and dig deep into archaeology of cultural mindset, we find a pattern of behaviour among a certain section of males who are engaged in paedophilia, molestation and sodomy.
“There is a strong likelihood that the cannibal king of Gilgit — Shri Badat — might have indulged in paedophilia. Lacking courage to name directly the practice of paedophilia, the society evaded reality and labelled it with cannibalism.”
An analysis of language in male dominated spaces reveals existence of an abusive vocabulary commonly used by male to insinuate activities related to sexual abuse of children and young boys. A more sophisticated term in Shina language employed for a molester is balo Shri Badat (Cannibal of lads). Shri Badat was a local king who ruled Gilgit in the 8th Century AD. There is a famous legend about him that he used to eat children. He developed taste for the “tender flesh” after eating a lamb offered by a woman as tax. Upon finding the taste of lamb extraordinary savoury, the king launched an investigation to ascertain the secret of taste. He found that a woman fed the lamb with her own milk after the death of mother sheep. Thereafter, Shri Badat used to take a child for his daily “feast”.
There is a strong likelihood that the cannibal king of Gilgit — Shri Badat — might have indulged in paedophilia. Lacking courage to name directly the practice of paedophilia, the society evaded reality and labelled it with cannibalism. The use of term Balo Shri Badat (Cannibal of lads) today is an atavism of paedophilic tendencies in the ancestors of Gilgitis. Interestingly, a beautiful child to whom a man aspires to woo for love is called mamusho means lamb. One can commonly hear this sentence that a new lamb (metaphor for lad) has arrived in market and let’s see who will devour him. Here eating refers to consummating love with child or lad.
“The lust for lads has found expression in poetry”
The lust for lads has found expression in poetry. For the male folk with homosexual tendencies, a sight of a boy wearing pants is enough to trigger his libidinal feelings that then crudely exhibit in poetry. A popular song about boys wearing pants paints a scenario where young lads stopped wearing shalwar qameez and preferred wearing tight pants. The poet gets so distracted by the glimpse of young boys that he loses motion of his car. He even threatens to abduct the boy if he refuses to pay heed to his supplications of love.
The afore-mentioned activities and practices in the sub-culture of sexual abuse in Gilgit-Baltistan are carried in spaces like markets, hotels, streets, workshops, schools, barren lands, mountains, forest and fields. These places and spaces are purely male dominated. Even some places have become synonyms for dens of sexual abuse. All the nefarious acts of sexual abuse of children by menfolk go unnoticed by women because it is a social anathema for women to visit such places.
“The tribal and male-dominated society of Gilgit-Baltistan considers an abuser a hero while the victim is ostracized as the one who has lost his or her worth.”
The tribal and male-dominated society of Gilgit-Baltistan considers an abuser a hero while the victim is ostracized as the one who has lost his or her worth. Therefore, the victim remains condemned for abusive treatment from society throughout his or her life. For a common woman at home her husband, uncle, brother and son are saints. This is evident from the fact that women do not have knowledge of the repertoire of words employed commonly by men for sexual abuse. For example, in Brushashki language there is a phrase ‘bas yaray (under the bridge)’. This refers to dallying with children and lads, but women are oblivious of presence of such phrases and words in the language.
“The abusive mentality of the outside intrudes into private spaces of home. Presence of this mentality at homes makes it easy for the sexual predators to prey upon innocent children inside the precincts of home in the garb of a relative”
Now the situation in the society of Gilgit-Baltistan is such that the language of men in public spaces and places contributes to culture of sexual abuse on the one hand, and highly sanctified language is observed at home on the other. There is no link that can possibly connect the language of inner sanctum of chadar and chardiwaari with the public spaces. Instead, the abusive mentality of the outside intrudes into private spaces of home. Presence of this mentality at homes makes it easy for the sexual predators to prey upon innocent children inside the precincts of home in the garb of a relative. One cannot maintain the heaven of home when it is surrounded by ocean of filthy minds outside.
“The existing institutional arrangements, social structures and cultural practices cannot cure the malady of child abuse in the society of Gilgit-Baltistan because these very entities are the causes of malady”
The dual face of man being a devil outside and saint inside has perpetuated the culture of silence and contributed to shunning of discussing child sexual abuse. As a consequence the disease of sexual abuse is spreading fast in the social body under the veneer of puritan culture of Gilgit-Baltistan. The custodians of culture keep the disease intact to keep the semblance of cultural health at the expense of individuals. It is our innocent children who are paying the cost to keep the façade society and culture intact. Today the culture of Gilgit-Baltistan has become vulture that feeds on children.
Given the gravity of situation, we urgently need to decide whether to save culture or individual child or lad to save him or her from the culture that allows predators to hunt freely while the prey is kept in chains. The existing institutional arrangements, social structures and cultural practices cannot cure the malady of child abuse in the society of Gilgit-Baltistan because these very entities are the causes of malady.
“To save children from predatory culture, it is imperative to get rid of prevailing mindset of society that harbours bad faith, dual morality, fallacies and libidinal urges within.”
To save children from predatory culture, it is imperative to get rid of prevailing mindset of society that harbours bad faith, dual morality, fallacies and libidinal urges within. By cleansing the cultural mindset of Gilgit-Baltistan, we can create a healthy society for our future generation. Otherwise, the cesspool of society will keep producing predators who continue to devour innocent children for their carnal desires in the garb of puritan culture.
The writer is a social scientist with a background in philosophy and social science. Email: [email protected]