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Modern Communication tools and the case of young women of Pakistan

A close friend, 19 year old Nazira, wore her best dress one evening. She came to show me her outfit before she went out to see someone ‘special’. Three hours later, she returned devastated; she could hardly speak. She wore a ‘burqa’ on top of what was left of her dress. Her rosy cheeks looked pale and eyes were sore. She was gang raped by the person she went to see and his friends. A male member from her family had seen her in that condition. I gave her clothes and asked her mother to pick her up. She was not allowed to leave her house following that incident. Nazira got into a ‘relationship’ with the person, a complete stranger, after a few casual chats via mobile phone with him. He had pressurized her into seeing him. It is still ambiguous how the call started.

By December 2010, the cellular subscribers reached at 102,777,387 according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) statistics, putting the cellular teledensity to 61.7 percent. It is a frequent practice to spam mobile phone inboxes with random contact numbers ‘available to chat.’ It has been an epidemic how SMS asking for ‘friendship’ circulate and how young people start interacting. The Pakistani youth seemed to have brought it to the level of instant chat messaging on the internet, not realizing the consequences of making your personal number public. This however, is more intrusive than the latter.

The responsibility lies on the inability of the young people to interact freely with the opposite sex due to the social and cultural norms. This has taken a toll on the Pakistani society. The behaviour of young people has changed significantly over the past decade with the advent of modern tools of communication. It almost seems inevitable that the so called ‘friendship’ will be an intimate one as no other opportunities exist for socializing. But the unwary young women like Nazira learned the harsh way how this practice is putting them in danger of exploitation and violence.

What most people fail to realize is the speed at which the modern communication tools has accelerated change. The young people seem to have a more emancipated approach in building new relationships with people they do not necessarily know. A change has occurred. The more time we take as a society ‘in transition,’ to come to terms with the new developments of the social landscape, the more difficult it will get to minimize the harm done to young lives. The free social interaction with opposite sex is still a taboo in Pakistani society. Girls did elope with someone they loved even before the introduction to mobile telephony and internet. But the method to communicate concerns and share frustrations has gotten so much easier and faster. If steps are not taken to allow interaction within the existing set of social, cultural and religious norms of the Pakistani society, a violent change might be imminent and nothing will be able to stop it. Social norms and local traditions are the decision makers about the fate of women. There is now a sharp contrast between the levels of empowerment modern technology has granted women and the women rights our male dominated society allows them to enjoy. The least that can be done is to facilitate these young women in making informed decisions.

The strong need to adapt to swift changes in the technological and the personal landscape of its young population, calls for the importance to educate the young population about privacy and safety issues attached with the risks of their current behaviour. The situation has been under scrutiny since the decision of PTA to ban all unregistered sim cards and connections. It is illegal to be in possession of a SIM card if it is not registered. This, to some extent has assisted in tracking people who ‘prey’ on unsuspecting women, making it less difficult for them to hide their identity. No one educated Nazira about the pros and cons of interacting with strangers via the new technologies. Therefore, a country wide privacy campaign and outreach program is needed to minimize the threats associated with it. An informed decision always supersedes an uninformed one.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Greta's picture

Thank you for sharing

Greeting from Afar Mariposa,

This article is quite thought provoking in regards to the rapid changes taking place in all society due to new technologies vs. the rate of change within a society. I feel such sadness for Nazira and the violation she experienced.
Young people are on the forefront of all of these changes and I hope that all society can learn to use these tools for change in positive directions.

I thank you for sharing and admire you from afar,
Gretchen

Iffat Gill's picture

Hello

Hello Greta,

Thank you for your comment. It is heart breaking when young women are not educated properly about the things they might need to look out for when experimenting with different new things in life. That is a 'luxury' that we still lack in in our country. Hope that the situation will change soon. The situation for majority of Pakistani women is already not a very easy one.

Best.

Iffat Gill

mrbeckbeck's picture

Pace of change...

Hi Mariposa...

Wow, wow... I was so horrified by Nazira's experience. It is a terrible, terrible thing.... and it provides a perfect lead for your OpEd. The need for education about personal security online and offline is an important issue for the world over, but as you say, even more so in a "society in transition" such as Pakistan. The issue cannot be kept behind closed doors any more, as the pace of change in technology is more rapid than societal norms.

You've done an excellent job here of showing a complex issue in a very personal and informative way. Thank you for your passionate work, as always.

Warm regards,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Iffat Gill's picture

Dear Scott

Dear Scott,

Thank you for the word of encouragement. Indeed Nazira's experience came as a shock to us, as even though we were very close, she never felt comfortable about sharing anything about her whereabouts with family or friends, even some of whom she trusted. This is why it is even more sad. Had the culture permitted these girls to be a bit open about the issues they were facing in their lives especially as young women, these incidences can be minimized.
On the other hand, the use of new technology like mobile telephone has opened doors for women like never before. It has connected these women (especially from rural areas) to the rest of their families and networks and has empowered them in an incredible way. Even older women who never learned how to read and write have learned how to use a mobile phone which is amazing. They use these signs/emoticons as a way to remember he contact numbers instead of the names available in phones which has proved to be a successful tool fro them.

Thank you once again for reading my work.

Best wishes.

Iffat Gill

Iffat Gill's picture

Dear Scott, Thank you for the

Dear Scott,

Thank you for the word of encouragement. Indeed Nazira's experience came as a shock to us, as even though we were very close, she never felt comfortable about sharing anything about her whereabouts with family or friends, even some of whom she trusted. This is why it is even more sad. Had the culture permitted these girls to be a bit open about the issues they were facing in their lives especially as young women, these incidences can be minimized.
On the other hand, the use of new technology like mobile telephone has opened doors for women like never before. It has connected these women (especially from rural areas) to the rest of their families and networks and has empowered them in an incredible way. Even older women who never learned how to read and write have learned how to use a mobile phone which is amazing. They use these signs/emoticons as a way to remember he contact numbers instead of the names available in phones which has proved to be a successful tool fro them.

Thank you once again for reading my work.

Best wishes.

Iffat Gill

carol adams's picture

thanks

Dear MariposaAsia,
Reading the tragic, and all-too-common, assaults on women that come out of rapid technological growth without social awareness of predatory behavior breaks my heart. Thank you for bringing greater awareness to this national and global problem.

Appreciatively,
Carol

Carol Adams

Iffat Gill's picture

Appreciate your comment. Best

Appreciate your comment. Best wishes.

Iffat Gill

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