In Pakistan, you can piss in public, but you dare not kiss in public.
Last week, at the Lux Style Awards in Karachi, when actor Yasir Hussain proposed to his girlfriend actress Iqra Aziz, in the most public way, it brewed a storm in the moral teacup of everyone. And why wouldn’t it, after all, the proposal was followed by an intimate hug and a kiss.
How dare the man hug or kiss a woman in the Islamic state of Pakistan, asked many. How dare he propose to her without the permission of her father, brother, uncle or even a male neighbour.
You know, these are the kind of acts that result in earthquakes and tsunamis. Forget the various crimes against women in society, it is a peck that’ll lead to Pakistan’s ultimate destruction.
So yes, how dare Yasir think of even showing any warmth to Iqra? The couple has been dating for a while and, to their credit (like a breath of fresh air), they didn’t hide their relationship. Unlike some celebrities in Pakistan who have denied their relationships even after their sex videos were out.
Even actress Veena Malik, a late entrant to the piety club, couldn’t resist from showing her utmost anger towards the newly engaged couple. In a set of tweets, she argued how can a couple kiss before nikah, calling it haram. She tweeted, “Nowhere in r Religion & Quran it is written tht u can hug & kiss before Nikkah. I think we shouldn’t bring religion 2 support their PDA.”
(6/3)Nowhere in r Religion & quran it is written tht u can hug & kiss before Nikkah.I think we shouldn’t bring religion 2 support their PDA.2 wrongs don’t make a right.Ofcourse, congratulations to the couple & so happy 4 that they’ll get married & preferred Halal over Haram
— VEENA MALIK (@iVeenaKhan) 8 July 2019
Veena’s rant came in response to actor Hamza Ali Abbasi’s defence of the couple: “Its sad how we Muslims so eagerly pick out individuals/bash them on thr persnl faults. Buraai ko buraai kaho, logon ko zaleel na karo. I criticise item numbers without ever picking out actresses and bashing them individually for doing item numbers. Allah ka khof karo musalmaano!”
#IqraAziz In an era when ppl prefer haraam over halal, how can U find faults in a man asking a woman for nikkah? Bcz he hugged her or kissed her on the cheek? STOP IT! Instead celebrate the good… Heartiest congrats to Yasir & Iqra. May Allah bless u both in ur new journey. pic.twitter.com/5jsxGUSYZy
— Hamza Ali Abbasi (@iamhamzaabbasi) 8 July 2019
Veena reiterated that media celebrities have a certain responsibility towards the society: “This PDA doesn’t represent r moral & cultural values, let alone religious.”
This is rich coming from Veena, who in India’s Bigg Boss would show plenty of affection for a fellow male contestant. Was all that without responsibility, one wonders now.
We are told that public display of affection (PDA) is not something that ‘good’ Pakistanis can handle. But, there are a lot of things that we can handle in public places: men scratching their private parts, women being beaten up, men groping women randomly or even eve-teasing. Ironically, two individuals in love hanging out in a public place get a bit too much.
Couples, married or dating, are supposed to behave in a manner that raises no eyebrows. They behave like siblings, who are just having dinner together. On a date, there can’t be any hand-holding in the middle of an intense conversation, for the moral police can even banish you from the restaurant.
If you think you can get away with a few moments of intimacy in your car then you have another thing coming. The police will come out of nowhere and ask you suspiciously what are you doing in the car. Then, the officer will ask you for your nikah nama (marriage certificate), as if those who have nikah namas fool around in cars.
Technically, PDA is not a punishable offence, but society deciphers laws as it wants.
According to the Pakistan Penal Code’s Section 294, “Whoever, to the annoyance of others; a) does any obscene act in any public place, or b) sings, recites or utters any obscene songs, ballad or words, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both”.
The bigger debate is who defines “obscenity” in a public space because, unfortunately, we dwell in an environment where vulgarity is rampant in the form of verbal abuse. People, especially men, use such words unashamed. Also, no one condemns men who openly harass women in public, either verbally or through cheap gestures, and humiliate them. That obviously isn’t considered obscenity. But our patriarchal society considers treating women nicely or displaying affection towards them as an unacceptable and atrocious act.
Some might call it our awkwardness around love — and therein lies the hypocrisy of being one thing in public and another in private. Even men who do show such warmth for women are shunned by their own and are sarcastically called ‘henpecked’. They are told: “Tum toh aurat ke neechay lagay huey ho”.
The ghairat brigade (or moral police) would like us to believe that showing affection to a woman is a conspiracy of the West. If that is indeed true, that’s one conspiracy we would like to be accused of.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.