From pederasty to paedophilia and Freudian slips

Published: May 20, 2014

Only in Pakistan do criminals become famous and are celebrated for murdering innocent people and get away with gang rape.

A long time ago, a gay Pakistani I know asked me once whether the relationship between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz qualifies as paedophilia. I didn’t understand his question or the context of it because he is well-read, intelligent, knows his religious history and psychology. The question confused me because there was very little I knew about them compared to Madho Lal Hussain.

Nevertheless, to avoid hurting my own ego, I referenced my mental notes on the romantic relationship between Madho Lal and Shah Hussain, and immediately tried to correct him.

“The feelings Rumi had fall under what we know as pederasty, not paedophilia! They are two very different things. Paedophilia is the most perverted form of sexual abuse an adult is capable of committing. It violates and traumatises the child for life, in some cases. Pederasty is a consensual relationship between an adult male and an adolescent male.”

I was mad at him for making this silly comparison because Rumi and Shah Hussain were spiritual and the relationship with their male lovers goes beyond the physical experience. I realised later on that he was only trying to see how homophobic I was and I hate being tested like that, especially at a time when I was busy confronting my own molesters.

According to Psychology Today, adolescence is described as the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood in the teenage years from 13 to 19. In Pakistan, we are only waking up to progressive legislations like banning of child marriages as we have recently witnessed in Sindh and the Anti-Women Practices Act 2011 against forced marriage. It is in Pakistan, we are also witnessing the latest horror called serial killing of gay men.

The New York Times article shows that the first gay victim was a retired military officer in his 50s, the second victim was an information technology worker and the third victim was a student at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The last two victims were in their 20s. No names are mentioned. It sickens me to see that only the names of the police officer and the murderer are making head waves in the news and media channels. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the journalists were trying to protect the families of the deceased by not naming them as if they are doing a marvellous job of being Clark Kents of 21st century Pakistan.

The question begs – would not writing about the aspirations and wishes of the deceased gay men make you less of a human? They are dead, for God’s sake.

Murder is murder. It has no sexual orientation. It is criminal and deserves dark and dank prison cells and the gallows, not media attention. What I’m trying to arrive at is our own unconscious biases where people take issues for granted and choose not to seek them out for what they really mean.

Shankar Vedantam in his book, The Hidden Braindefines this unconscious bias as,

“‘Subtle cognitive errors that lay beneath the rim of awareness,’ making our actions stand at odds with our intentions and resulting in errors, conflicts, misjudgements and manipulation”.

Therefore, I’m not saying that people’s intentions are malicious. All I’m saying is that it happens unintentionally. In psychology, it is known as the Freudian slip, an error in speech, memory or physical action that is interpreted as occurring due to the interference of an unconscious (dynamically repressed) subdued wish, conflict or train of thought guided by the ego and the rules of correct behaviour.

Thanks to these beautiful ‘slips’, we allow the murderers to speak on television and not only authenticate their actions but fuel potential murderers. What were the names of Salman Taseer’s and Shahbaz Bhatti’s murderers, again?

What are the names of the police officers who were beating the hell out of those nurses when they were protesting peacefully to get their jobs back at the Government Health Departments?

One of them was murdered in cold blood, which one of the police officers murdered her? Does anyone know?

Or does anyone know the names of the police officers who released the gang rapists of Amna days after their arrest? The young medical student self-immolated herself. Did anyone care? We don’t even know the names of her rapists.

Now, everyone knows who kills gays in Pakistan and the police officer who struts behind him is also famous. Bravo, Pakistan, we are so proud of you.

There are no strict laws or penalties against paedophilia as it is most common among adults who have children in their families and why not, incest is such a good thing, right? There are books written on it and films based on actual accounts. So, hush, it is a bad idea because there is no family ordinance to contest issues in the media concerning the disease of paedophilia unless you’re gay, a gang rape victim or a peaceful protestor demanding the rights denied to you because then you are automatically demoted to ‘less of a human being’.

Unconscious bias towards gender is the most prevalent and pernicious according to Vedantam as is obvious from the examples above. Dr Junaid Jahangir speculates,

“It would perhaps be too much to ask morality enforcers to adopt a renewed perspective on same-sex relationships. However, they do have the choice to address the issue with afw (forgiveness) in light of the understanding that people without a legal avenue to fulfil their human need for mawadda (affection) cannot be expected to be super-moral figures”.

Since it is only in Pakistan that criminal men become famous and are even celebrated for murdering innocent people, and get away with gang rape, now would be a good time to revisit our own unconscious biases and the shame indoctrinated by patriarchy that hinder educated honesty and self-belief and turns us into ignorant cowards. It must happen soon.


Fakhra Hassan

A self-identified feminist based in Lahore, she is working on completing her first novella and tweets as @fakhraahassan (

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

  • |TopGun|

    Irony that your post is also media attention.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Well . Anything happens to me happens only because of me . The Gays themselves are to be blamed for their situation today. They should come out and show that they are ‘normal’ other wise like working in banks / IT etc., donating to charities etc., taking care of their senior family members responsibly etc., . Right now in the subcontinent ( at least ) the image of gays is bad. They are usually depicted as wearing fluorescent bright lipsticks or dancing in parties or having typical mannerisms ( like high pitched voice etc., ) making a spectacle of themselves. In due course they will earn the respect of the others in society if they behave (otherwise ) normally.Recommend

  • shakinghishead

    oh feminists…Recommend

  • Naila

    I believe its mostly the lack of education that is to blame for this ignorance. And topics like rape, homosexuality and pedophilia are already difficult enough to talk about in this country, let alone speak up for the rights of the victims.

    It’s truly beautiful how many problems of Pakistan education can cure on its own. If only……Recommend

  • Critical

    “Pederasty is a consensual relationship between an adult male and an adolescent male.”

    I’m sorry but in a civilized world,Pedarasty is equivalent to pedophilia and any adult indulging in that will be jailed for the same and the adolescent is given counselling….I bet you endorse the marriage of a 13 yr old girl to an adult male too??

    The civilized world views that an adolescent is incapable of thinking for himself as his hormones do the same for him…So its the duty of the adult not to indulge in anything even if it was initiated by the adolscent

    Maybe its the same thinking in the muslim world that gave rise to “Dancing boys” and child brides being more legalized and demonize 2 consenting adults …

    We dont care what happened 1400 years ago,but in current world,anyone who tries to harbor feelings against a minor should be shown the jailRecommend

  • sidjeen

    good effort but just a suggestion, make sure that at the end of an article you leave your readers clear headed rather than confused.Recommend

  • hadi

    Although you tried writing a well balanced article, it wasn’t a smooth read.Recommend

  • I don’t think we should look to make a distinction between pederasty and pedophilia in this modern age, knowing all that we know now. Sex between a minor and an adult is rape, be it statutory or violent. While certain anecdotal boy-man relationships are a part of our spiritual legacy in South Asia, Middle East, and Central Asia, I find it really troubling to attempt to qualify censuring physical relationships with minors in contemporary times. Just like we can’t judge Madho Lal Husain with today’s standards, we also can’t characterize such liaisons today in some fabled spiritual light from the past.Recommend

  • selbiasresistor

    @shakinghishead, dude this gesture of yours sends a very cold shudder down the FEMALE spine!!and the rest would just make sense to you , wont it?
    the good thing about this article is that it cherry picks an issue from within an issue which many find hard to digest but then only a rare few have the courage to come up with an article about it !! bravoRecommend

  • Billoo


  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    This article made me sick, and angry. particularly this line
    “Pederasty is a consensual relationship between an adult male and an adolescent male.”
    Please just THINK a little before you write something that condones statutory rape. How can a sane human being think that it is OK for an adult to have a physical relation with an adolescent and then call herself a feminist?
    You know if someone caught with an underage boy in the U.S.A or Europe, or for that matter anywhere in the world, says “HEY Mr. POLICEMAN THIS IS NOT PEDOPHILIA THIS IS PEDERASTY” He will be booted off to jail faster than you can say

  • Exactly. The critical nuance the writer seems oblivious to is that in a society ruled by law, adolescents/minors are deemed incapable of giving consent, so there can be no “consensual relationship” with an adult. Just like minors can’t contract marriage, trade property, vote, etc. And that’s just the legal side of it. It’s mind boggling that a “feminist” was so clueless.Recommend

  • You seem to be supremely talented at missing the point *rolling my eyes*. Are women also responsible for their situation in South Asia? Think long and hard about all your assumptions.Recommend

  • Karam Ali

    to write about the sexual behaviour of Pakistan is in itself ‘COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET’ slowly and gradually if given time things will changeRecommend

  • Anoop

    How is that bad? If Govinda wants to wear Red Pants and Yellow Shirts, its fine and even funny, but when others want to do it, and if they are Gay, thats bad?

    Thats regressive thinking to base one’s opinion of others based on the type of clothes they wear.

    They don’t need respect, its their birthright. Just like every other Indian.Recommend

  • sundas

    “Since it is only in Pakistan that criminal men become famous and are even celebrated for murdering innocent people”

    are you sure? Pakistan is, certainly, one of those countries where criminal are famous, celebrated and even elected. But making it exclusive to Pakistan sounds clumsy. Oh does not it make a perfect example of “Subtle cognitive error” ?Recommend

  • ghostship x

    age of consent is 14 in some countrys in europe, so pederasty is legal in most cases…Recommend