How technology in Pakistan should be used safely

Published: January 6, 2013

Unlike women, we males face little to no consequences for what we do privately or publicly. ILLUSTRATION: JAHANZAIB HAQUE

The public-private debate in Pakistan is a hard creature to get a handle on. Being a Pakistani male, when I was approached by Take Back the Tech — a Bytes for All Pakistan initiative locally — to develop a set of comic strips for their campaign focused on how concepts of public and private affect ICTs and violence against women, I was initially stumped. 

I was told the debate was a wide one, including right to privacy, lines between private and public in online spaces, state surveillance, sexting and more. I wanted to focus on this with an emphasis on technology, media (especially the online space) and young people, but I found myself failing to grasp how to present the issue in a meaningful manner.

My wife finally explained the problem to me.

As a male, I have tremendous privilege in this country of ours. To a large extent, this issue has almost no (overt) bearing on me given how males face little to no consequences for what they do privately or publicly, what they say, or what places they can and cannot go.

We chit chatted on the issue, and once again, she took me out of my comfort zone and threw some (fairly ugly) stuff in my face about my attitude and behaviour (I’m just as culpable as the next guy, if not worse), the kinds of things she has personally had to face, and how our society makes people feel and think about concepts like privacy, “chaar diwari”, public information and public access.

Feeling like two-parts-brute-one-part-ignoramus, I took her on board as my consultant for the toons below.

I realised something we all experience is the dreaded Facebook photo upload issue…

Of course it isn’t just males who play a negative role here…

But sometimes, just sometimes, things turn out alright…

In all fairness, Facebook can be used as a public tool for good  (if people only see it that way)…

But there is a lot of exploitation of privacy, especially through mobile phones…

What’s more, our traditional media seems utterly clueless on where to draw the line…

But isn’t the media just a reflection of what we are like in day to day situations?

Often us guys are unable to grasp how deeply this issue impacts the opposite sex… 

And in a small but terrifying number of cases, extreme violence is the result…

At least… I hope it’s a small number of cases.

In truth, a woman’s honour tied to her being neither seen, nor heard, nor educated, nor allowed access to information, yet vulnerable to having her privacy invaded and/or exploited, and shamed for bringing such exploitation to a public platform at any time is a host of very serious issues indeed.

Yes, men are negatively impacted too, but we continue to live in our fantasy lands, largely oblivious to the (vastly better) life we could be living if everyone was on an equal standing.

I feel burdened. I feel unhappy. Looking at the toons, I feel I myself have failed on this front far too many times.

Let’s hope the future is one where we can all help pull ourselves out of this darkness we live in.

Jahanzaib Haque

Jahanzaib Haque

News buff and Web Editor, The Express Tribune. Jahanzaib tweets @Jhaque_

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.