Written by: Rabail Anjum
“Bizarre CSS English essay question stirs debate amongst netizens.”
-The Express Tribune
This year, Pakistan’s most esteemed assessment, the Central Superior Services (CSS) exam – presented a curious topic in the writing section many test takers found astonishing:
“Boys Will Be Boys”
Later that day, people began mocking the test, and then “Boys Will Be Boys” became a tremendous, top-trending social media sensation throughout the country.
Having been born in a backward rural area of Pakistan, this jeering public response reminded me of my childhood and always turning a blind eye towards the mischievous behavior of my brothers and male cousins. Today, I am 25 years old and sadly, the status quo has not changed a bit. Boys will always be boys. And you know what? They will continue to rape girls, they will continue to abuse their spouses, and they will keep on taking advantage of girls – as they roam around the city in the middle of the night.
However, girls will be women because they are told to behave in a specific manner as soon as they are born. Do not wear short dresses, do not go outside, do not play with girls, do not do this and that etc. For any action of boys, there is a justification. However, for girls, there are rules, codes and punishments, even for how they breathe.
WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG?
We told them they could do whatever they wanted, and that is what they do. We as a society normalized “boys will be boys” and now they are practicing this. We, as parents, never tell boys to behave respectably, and instead, laugh at their acts of degradation. We cherish it when they slap others. We invite them on TV to enjoy their badtameezi (misbehavior). We normalize women-related abuse in our homes. We never let them acknowledge the real worth of a woman. We tell them they are the masters. We, as a society, failed to let boys be accountable for their acts. This mindset is now showing its fruits, and we are witnessing the rising gender-based violence behind a 60 percent youth population.
WILL THIS EVER CHANGE?
In a country like Pakistan, this will change. Recently, a bus hostess was raped on her way to Vihari. And in the capital city, a girl is raped in the “land of the pure.” Afterward, the rapists told her not to go outside in the evening. Since when has it become a crime to go outside in the evening? And since when has it become an acceptable act to rape someone? Is Pakistan’s 60 percent youth population going in the right direction? We, as a nation, have failed to acknowledge women as human beings. A woman is only an object to play with. A woman has no dignity. My heart aches for all my fellows who have experienced any kind of violence at any place. Women are never safe in this country, whether on a bus, in a safe city, or even at home.
What we need to do is not only condemn the GBV but also “the boys.” Training them to be respectful towards women is the need of the hour. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the boys are developing into dignified gentlemen. We can accomplish this by taking all social institutions on board and starting with family. The family must acknowledge their boys’ toxic traits and stop justifying their acts with ‘boys will be boys’ terminology. Moreover, we need to inculcate reverence in boys for female students in schools. Institutionalized religion can also play a pivotal role in this. The Ulema, for example, could issue fatwas regarding violence. At the state level, harsh punishments for rapists and abusers must be ensured. It is no use in crying over the past; only steps taken in the right direction can eliminate violence against women. To sum up, boys will be what they are taught.