Bullying in Pakistan

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The December 22, 2015 report from Nobullying about bullying in Pakistan talked about many types of bullying in Pakistan, including cyberbullying, school bullying, and workplace bullying. The statistics on the history of bullying show that men and boys are victims of bullies in Pakistan, however women and girls experience much more bullying than the males experience. The bullying information about women shows it happens at all levels of society. The male-dominated culture in Pakistan is one reason why people bully them.

Not only is offline bullying of Pakistan women rampant, cyberbullying has become a serious problem in Pakistan. Women are frequently the targets. In 2016, more evidence and information is coming out about the bullying of females in Pakistan. Brave women speak out and take action against this serious problem in order to prevent bullying.

Cyberbullying Adds to the Troubles of Pakistani Women

The 2015 Nobullying article, notes that women experience significant cyberbullying from males. Threats include sexual comments and men saying they will rape them. In Pakistan, when a young girl is raped it brings shame to the entire family. Girls do not learn how to handle bullying in Pakistan.

Surprisingly, many Pakistani women participate in cyberbullying other females as well. Females attacking other females online, using cyberbullying tactics, has become commonplace in Pakistan. The reason this is so troubling is that Pakistani women already face horrible amounts of offline bullying in the form of body shaming. It is the cultural norm in Pakistan to degrade females in so many ways.

Body Shaming

A woman, who is an attorney, Rafia Zakaria, writes about the bullying and body shaming of Pakistani girls and women. This was the subject of a documentary that aired on Al Jazzera Plus television. BBC produced a follow up documentary called Battling Body Shaming.

Body shaming starts very early in the lives of young Pakistani girls. It begins with sibling bullying with verbal abuse that sometimes is also physical. Many things said to the girls, even by their parents, lower their self-esteem and make them feel unworthy. Examples are that family members, especially the males, say that things like, they are too fat, too tall, that their skin is too dark, and they are ugly.

This body shaming stories show a pattern for the girl kids, starting with primary bullying at school as well that haunts them for the rest of their lives. Having no way to defend themselves from psychological attacks at such a young age, they often begin to believe the things they hear said about themselves. This get worse when they become a teen after suffering much verbal abuse by brothers, parents, and other adults.

As Pakistani girls grow older, the bullying abuse continues with middle school bullying and high school bullying, all the way to university bullying. When they become old enough to get married their families force the girls to make themselves up, starve them to make them thinner, dress them up and scold them into submission to make them an attractive prospect with the characteristics needed to become a subservient wife.

Families treat young women as if they were merchandise. The marriage market in Pakistan is very competitive. This is why many women make disparaging remarks about other females.

For those women who take a job, the bullying of females continues in the workplace with office bullying at work. If the women do get married, bullying cases show that their husbands bully them and the body shaming continues, even with attacks by other females.

As part of an anti-bullying campaign to define and eliminate body shaming, Zainab Chughtai, who is also a female Pakistani attorney, started the Bully Proof initiative. Bully Proof conducts therapy-based sessions with groups of people. They talk about bullying facts, bullying signs, what causes bullying, and how to stop bullying. They talk about how to battle body shaming and overcome its long term effects, which are so negative. When body-shaming attacks continue online, cyberbullying adds another layer of the harassment that Pakistani women face in modern society.

Anti-Bullying Efforts and Laws Against Cyberbullying in Pakistan

One woman, Nighat Dad, founder of the Digital Rights Foundation non-profit organization has been working very much to stop the bullying and especially the cyberbullying of Pakistani women.

Nighat Dad is a highly educated woman, trained to be an attorney. She reports about the effects of her firsthand experience of trying to escape a bullying husband and gain custody of her child. While going through her own divorce, she learned what is a bully. She saw how Pakistani women faced harassment by society and found little justice in a male-dominated legal system controlled by the state. This led her to fight for women’s rights and to take on the effort to fight cyberbullying in Pakistan.

One of the reasons given for this rampant cyberbullying in Pakistan was the lack of legislation to prohibit cyberbullying acts with a strong definition of what they are and to create awareness about bullying. This has now changed with the introduction of a new cyber crimes law, however; the complete ramifications of the change are still undetermined, because Internet bullying and things like Facebook bullying, have not been challenged yet under the new cyberbullying laws.

Cyber Crime Bill Passes

During 2016, Reuters reported that the Pakistani parliament and senate debated the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill intensely. It had stiff opposition from many groups.  Nevertheless, it passed and became law in Pakistan during August 2016.

Reuters said quotes from the opposition include one from Nighat Dad of the Digital Rights Foundation, who complained that the language of the new cyber crime law was overly broad. There are concerns that the new law could ensnare ignorant and innocent Pakistani citizens who would face harsh penalties for breaking it.

Some of the provisions of the Pakistan Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) reported by the Pakistani news website called Dawn include:

  • During any investigation, authorized officers can require anyone to unlock a mobile phone or computer.
  • The Pakistani government may cooperate with any foreign government and send any data to any foreign government.
  • Up to seven years in prison and an Rs10 million fine (about US$95,000) for the online recruiting, planning, or funding of terrorism.
  • Up to seven years in prison and an Rs10 million fine (about US$95,000) for dishonest interference with critical infrastructure or data.
  • Up to three years in prison and a fine of Rs 1 million (about US$9,500) for unauthorized access to critical infrastructure data (e.g. hacking government systems)
  • Up to three years in prison and a fine of Rs 1 million (about US$9,500) for “spoofing.” This is creating a fake website for a dishonest purpose that copies an authentic one.
  • Up to three years in prison and a fine of Rs 1 million (about US$9,500) for identity theft.
  • Up to three months in jail and Rs 1 million fine (about US$9,500) for sending spam emails.
  • Under the bill the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has unlimited powers to decide what is legal and what is illegal, including blocking any content it deems inappropriate for any reason.

While the new Pakistan Cyber Crime Bill (full text) increases the Pakistani government’s ability to spy on people, shut down any offending websites for undetermined periods, and jail opponents for exercising rights to free speech online, it does address the problem of cyberbullying as reported by the Diplomat.

Those who post false information, threaten others, create fake websites or use false identities to create social media accounts are guilty of criminal acts under the PECB. Anyone sending unsolicited electronic messages may face fines and be put in jail. The facts about cyberbullying show that it includes sexual threats and/or the unauthorized posting or sharing of explicit photos. This is now a crime in Pakistan punishable by up to one year in prison and an Rs 1 million fine (about US$9,500).

However, the new Cyber Crime Bill also increases the ability of the Pakistani government to bully its own people. Abuse of the PECB by government officials and agencies is the thing that worries the opposition the most.

Summary
The Pakistani government is trying to learn how to deal with the complex issues that change the way people communicate with each other. The process of implementing new laws is slow. It took over three years for the PECB to become law. Meanwhile, the bullying statistics increased.

Granting the Pakistani government more authority to investigate, seize data, and shut down websites is good when it stops terrorist attacks. However, the same law can give the government the ability to shut down legitimate opposition efforts by political parties and activists that the government does not like.

Hopefully, some lawyers will bring cyberbullying cases to trial under the new law so that there will be proven benefits from the legislation.

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