Thursday, 21 January 2010

Auntie's Anti-Penile PENAL Code

Women sweep the roads, bake bricks at kilns and sell newspapers at traffic lights. They also work alongside men in the rural fields and manage quite a few manly jobs in the cities. But to employ them at petrol stations is unfair because it deprives away young men who support entire families. Women too sometimes support families but the Word is unambiguous on this issue: men must protect and provide for women.

When I protested against the presence of a female petrol-station attendant, the manager looked at me from head to toe, “Sir, the government wants us to provide equal opportunity to women in every sphere of life.”

I believe the sphere in question is the common petrol station. One evening when the tank’s quantity indicating needle almost hit the dreaded ‘E’, I drove straight for the nearest petrol station.

Wearing a baseball cap, and while holding that metallic contraption meant to pour petrol—if nothing else—into a near-empty tank—if nowhere else, a female worker innocently asked me, “Sir, how much shall I pour?”

She asked in Urdu and I consider it rude to put it here in words.

NGOS be damned, the government always listens to those with Dollars in their pockets. Overnight the wasted begums, the divorced social butterflies, the supply depot madams, the Dollar-eyed touts and their impious foreign sponsors had managed to change the delicate balance of our society. What Iqbal dreamt and what Jinnah attempted to implement now stands ruined by the hairy hands of the illiterate misleaders.

Pushing women to take up jobs where they come face to face with male customers every other minute is tantamount to promoting male sexual harassment. Sooner, rather than later, a tired driver will opt to refresh himself by baby-talking his way into female consciousness. A better option might have been to keep the ladies occupied in accounting or other departments where they need not worry about facial makeup or personal grooming. Now that the petrol girls will ‘man’ all stations, poor male drivers will have to fret about male makeup and facials.

It is true that the Mullahs are genuinely concerned—I for one being a million miles away from their scheming—about the turn of events in our senate. It is also unfortunately true that the same Mullahs have not been able to turn every other woman of this country into a well-groomed female legislator—the kind that now regularly appear on various television talk-shows and keep idiotic husbands glued to the idiot-box.

So, when the I’d-like-to-fill-you-up lady at the petrol station asked me if I wanted it, I said with a lowered gaze, “No!” and instead shouted for the nearest male attendant to fill up my car’s tank.

Overnight liberty, fraternity, and equality have descended upon us from the heavens. Having women—‘chimta’in hand—chase after low wager husbands was bad enough, asking depleted drivers if they wish to have their fill is officially-sponsored immorality, and once, the Mullahs are right.

My loud ‘no’ at the petrol station was heard by a very august body: our senate. Only yesterday, tired of passing the buck, they passed a bill to further amend the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 against sexual harassment at the workplace.

Amid strong criticism from religious parties, the bill–moved by Law Minister Babar Awan–was referred to the Upper House and was swiftly passed by the National Assembly.

The new amendment bill seeks to insert a new offence in Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860(XLV) to provide for punishment over sexual harassment at workplaces, and consequential amendments in Schedule II of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898(V) to make the offence punishable with imprisonment–which may extend to three years–or a fine of up to Rs 500,000, or both.

The aunties have won! If I had my way, I would insert another decent sounding code in place of the very suggestive one that has something to do with penile matters. They claim that the offence would be bailable and non-compoundable—a lawyer will explain what that means.

The amendment is aimed at protecting women in particular against sexual harassment and was supported by all, apart from the religious parties and a senator from FATA.

JUI Senators Mohammad Khan Shirani, Ghafoor Haideri, Gul Naseeb Khan, JI Senator Prof Ibrahim and Senator Prof Sajid Mir objected to the bill and jointly proposed recommendations for inclusion in the amendment. They said that ‘the new amendment in the bill was a violation of the fundamental norms of Islam and the constitution, and would promote vulgarity among women. The bill must be sent to the Council of Islamic Ideology for further review.’

Never to stay silent on such issues, the female senators strongly protested and chanted slogans against JUI Senator Ghafoor Haideri for saying that the amendment would ‘further pave the way for NGO employees to promote vulgarity.’

We are not told if the males—exercising their right to protest—chanted slogans against the female senators; if they did nothing of the kind, double shame on them for not unleashing their male tongues and providing the citizens with constitutional entertainment.

Senators from the plethora of political parties supported the bill, saying ‘it would provide complete protection for women at workplaces.’ Exactly how, we were not told. Not even a contraceptive promises complete protection.

The pro-bill thrillers said that ‘since the bill was passed in the Lower House unanimously, there was no point in sending the bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology or including any more proposals in the amendment. There are shortcomings in the current law, and the majority of the female population preferred to stay home out of fear of sexual harassment at the hands of male colleagues.’

The JUI’s Ghafoor Haideri said ‘the NGOs were behind this amendment … after the passage of this bill, our society will be transformed into European society. Islamic principles and ethics should not be bulldozed in a country created in the name of Islam.’

In chaste Urdu, pro-bill Senator Tahir Mashadi of the MQM said ‘the new amendment would provide protection to the people at workplaces against sexual arrangements’.

PML-N Senator Raja Zafarul Haq said ‘the amendment bill was not a new thing, as it had only increased and specified the punishment against offenders.’ Indeed nothing is new in Pakistan and American invaders have been drone-bombing us since 1947.

Senator Nelofar Bakhtiar, Kalsoom Perveen and Mushahidullah supported the bill. Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Mohammad Jamali–who presiding over the session–counted the desk-thumping members who supported the bill to pass with a majority.

Mentioning the same old names is boring to the core. Let us have the national anthem now and be done with the job.

Pakistan and Islam zindabad, NGOs murdabad.

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