Caught in Islamabad with sex toys and an abortion clinic – Uh Oh

Published: March 14, 2015
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There was no effort put in to addressing why business is booming for such places, just a moral commentary on the ‘evils’ of homosexuality.

Around 1,000 Pakistani women die every year because of abortion-related complications, and the procedure is often used as a primary family-planning method, rather than a last resort. This is because of a combination between low contraceptive prevalence, low sexual health awareness, unqualified or illegal medical practitioners and social taboos about topics related to sexuality.

So when a story comes along that allows broader debate on quack abortionists, it is worrying that the approach taken to covering it is one of religious and moral outrage at the ‘unusual’ sexual elements of the story, rather than the life-preserving element.

A recent story about an alleged fake abortion clinic in Islamabad was given a peg based on the allegation that the ‘doctor’ is a lesbian and might also have committed sexual abuse. There was no effort put in to addressing why business is booming for such places, just a moral commentary on the ‘evils’ of homosexuality.

Abortions are only legal in Pakistan to protect the health of the mother, and are generally difficult to get, especially for unmarried women. It does not help that most single women do not want to keep the child for societal or professional reasons, rather than any health related reason.

The story referred to how all of the alleged victims were young women from healthy economic backgrounds, which would imply that they could go to a reputable doctor instead of a shady clinic, unless there was an illegal procedure involved.

There are also numerous references to the fake doctor either seducing her alleged victims or how they were essentially forced to be gay.

Except that you cannot force a sexual preference on someone.

It is not like a personal vice. You can go from non-smoker to smoker and back to non-smoker in a day. But you cannot just flip a switch to ‘turn off the gay’ in someone, simply because it is not an addiction.

Yet, as far as intolerance goes, the piece calls homosexuality an ‘unnatural practice’. If something is occurring regularly in nature, including in human beings, is it really unnatural? Call it rare or uncommon, but calling it unnatural implies it is something that social animals would also ostracise their kith and kin for doing, which does not happen.

British broadcaster and activist, Stephen Fry, once pointed out in an interview that,

“At least 260 species of animal have been noted exhibiting homosexual behaviour but only one species of animal ever, so far as we know, has exhibited homophobic behaviour — and that’s the human being, so ask yourself what’s truly natural.”

What is really surprising is that we do not think twice before putting young children in single gender environments, such as all girls or all boys’ schools, during a time their bodies are changing and they may start viewing their own gender as objects of affection. Being in an all-boys school might not make anyone gay, but it could push anyone who is on the fence about their sexuality over the fence.

Add to that the fact that in many circles, cross-gender interaction is also limited outside of school, meaning that most boys may not interact with a girl they are not related to for days or weeks. Would that encourage them to respect women or only view them as sexual objects? Sit in an all-boys discussion and pay attention to the jokes. The results are usually quite obvious.

Homosexuality and premarital sex have existed since the early days of human existence, whether referring to religious or archaeological records; so really, the issue is only about social acceptance, tolerance, distaste, or outrage towards the subjects. Unfortunately, a substantial amount of the latter has forced ‘moral’ issues to dominate the life-and-death ones.

It is not just about a 1,000 women and the ones who fall ill due to complications, it is also about poverty, because in an overpopulated developing country, a booming birth rate can only bring misery, amongst other things, such as, draining public services and creating unemployment, which also serves as a tool for radicalisation.

Lest we forget, for many terrorists, being part of a terrorist group is a job, not a calling. A smaller, stable population would mean less unemployment and less stress on government services, which can only be a good thing. But who cares about that when two girls are kissing?

The use of abortion as a family planning tool and the low contraceptive usage rate suggest population growth can be controlled if measures are taken to improve contraceptive prevalence, but that would require drawing focus to the right issue.

As for the fake abortionist, some other details in the story seem to suggest that she was simply a gay woman with a violent streak, not untypical of Pakistani men. After all, most people, especially those that have lived on their own, would be smart enough to know that a ‘doctor’ does not invite you into their bedroom to show you their range of sex toys. Due to lack of awareness or interaction though, they might not know that gay people can be just as peaceful or violent as straight people.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

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