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How toxic masculinity breeds violence in Pakistan

You’ll never hear about a mob of women taking to the streets and exerting violence in order to pressurise the state to accept their demands. 

This is because violence in Pakistan is primarily a masculine construct. 

Our country is full of “masculine” men with egos so fragile that they wouldn’t think twice before committing murder that too in the most gruesome way possible. 

In Sialkot, a Sri Lankan manager was beaten to death, his body was burnt and men in the mob found it wise to take selfies beside the burning carcass. 

A Pakistani man taking a selfie besides Priyantha Kumara’s burning body.

While we explore religious and political themes in this particular murder, we ignore the role gender plays not only in this instance but almost all gruesome crimes which take place in Pakistan. 

An overwhelming majority of the horrific acts of violence in Pakistan are committed by men but not always against men. 

Our patriarchal tendencies somewhat allow and even encourage violence against women if they are considered to break free from the gender roles assigned to them. 

While honour killings are relatively well documented, we ignore the casual acts of violence or just the threat of it which dominates the lives of many women in Pakistan. 

As a whole, the “masculine” men in Pakistan seek total control over the lives of women, whether it’s to do with their mobility, their education, their romantic choices and even how they dress. 

In this unholy quest to dominate the lives of women, Pakistani men are fully supported by the clergy, even popular clerics with millions of subscribers on their YouTube channels. Not to mention the Molvis who also peddle in women’s fashion in order to ensure cash flow keeps on flowing. Money never hurt nobody.

But despite the fact that women have an insignificant contribution to overall crimes in Pakistan, the religious elite has always considered women responsible for the grave ills of our society. 

Popular cleric Tariq Jameel who enjoys a massive fan following in the elite circles of Pakistan held women’s clothing habits as being responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Another popular Molvi who is considered to be relatively moderate, Maulana Tariq Masood frequently spews hatred against women who do not live their lives according to a pre-defined morality that has less to do with being good and more to do with being controlled. 

Maulana Tariq Masood also argues that there is a specific way women are supposed to sit on motorcycles and if they don’t sit in that specific way, then they are for all intents and purposes, bad charactered women who are ruining the fabric of our society. 

Toxic masculinity in Pakistan is emboldened not only by the religious elite but also the State which makes it very clear that men are the VIP citizens of Pakistan while women would be wise to know their place in the land of the pure. 

Groups of violent men who kill police officers (as we saw in the case of the Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan) find the State more than willing to accept their unreasonable demands. 

However, peaceful women who protest under the banner of Aurat March are not only discouraged but are vilified to the extent that fake accusations of blasphemy are casually made as if calling for the death of a bunch of innocent women marching for their rights is just not that big of a deal. 

As far as our mainstream political discourse is concerned, women are considered to be responsible for the crimes committed against them and any voice arguing otherwise must be foreign-funded and/or contrary to the interests of the state of Pakistan. 

According to our honourable Prime Minister, women’s clothes are responsible for rapes. 

Imran Khan applies victim-blaming at its finest, sheltering responsibility far away from his supporters who seemingly espouse deep misogynistic tendencies. “A woman who is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on men, unless they are robots,” the honourable PM held.

Analysing toxic masculinity in Pakistan becomes much clearer when we realise that the State of Pakistan has for a long time cultivated a specific breed of men who don’t think twice before exercising violence on whatever pretence, be it blasphemy, honour, religion or even political affiliation. 

It is simply too easy for men to become violent in Pakistan where the consequences of their actions are minimal. 

Even groups like the TTP which massacred thousands of innocent Pakistanis find themselves on the negotiating table so why wouldn’t Pakistani men who have committed much less violence consider that they’ll get away with it? 

Toxic masculinity has become so entrenched in Pakistani men even across the elite spectrum that normal, day to day interactions become clouded with shades of violence. 

Concerts, events and public gatherings which feature men and women together become a hotspot for the exhibition of toxic masculinity. 

Pakistani men love to fight with each other and the only way they think they can prove their manhood is by successfully exerting violence. 

Even in London, I have witnessed young Pakistani students who are provided all the privileges in the world being unable to resist the urge to exhibit their masculinity by violence. 

It seems as if we are becoming a nation where an individual’s worth is determined by how much damage they can inflict not how much value they can generate. 

Until Pakistani men realise that our toxic masculinity stems from our own inherent insecurities and weaknesses, we will continue living in the cycle of violence that serves neither men nor women. 

Power that is rooted in violence does not signify strength but a barbarity that reflects the worst instincts of human beings.

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