Pakistan: The Utah of South Asia?

ISLAMABAD—Fox News is reporting that Pakistan is the number one country in the world for porn searches. The data comes courtesy of Google Trends and Google Insights.

Pakistan is a Muslim nation, of course, and is rather aggressive when it comes to monitoring websites for content that is considered blasphemous. It is also conservative with respect to its customs and dress, and as a professor of Islamic studies told Fox, “You won’t find strip clubs in Islamic countries.”

But it may come as no surprise that people who find erotic materials difficult or dangerous to procure in stores would take to the internet to get it. In the United States, we’re very accustomed to this dynamic. Utah, for instance, is perennially the number one state in terms of porn searches and porn sales in hotel rooms, etc. As a state founded on the Mormom religion, its citizens are constantly bombarded with messages designed to keep them on the straight and narrow. One can only suspect that a similar dynamic is in play in Pakistan, though maybe not as much in the tribal areas. (But who knows!)

Still, some of the search terms that distinguish the country are interesting. According to Fox, “Pakistan is top dog in searches per-person for ‘horse sex’ since 2004, ‘donkey sex’ since 2007, ‘rape pictures’ between 2004 and 2009, ‘rape sex’ since 2004, ‘child sex’ between 2004 and 2007 and since 2009, ‘animal sex’ since 2004 and ‘dog sex’ since 2005, according to Google Trends and Google Insights, features of Google that generate data based on popular search terms.”

Fox could not even reprint some of the search terms, but noted, “The country also is tops—or has been No. 1—in searches for ‘sex,’ ‘camel sex,’ ‘rape video,’ ‘child sex video.’”

According to Professor Gabriel Said Reynolds, the Islamic scholar, to the extent that Pakistan blocks or monitors certain websites—including Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Amazon, MSN and Hotmail—the purpose is not so much to censor content as to keep non-Muslim ideas out.

“[It] could lead to conversion, which would undermine the very order of the state,” he said. “Part of protecting the society is making sure that there is no way it could be undermined in terms of foreign influences.”

Clearly, according to Sharia law, which is practiced in non-urban parts of the country, certain behavior is dealt with harshly. Blasphemy, for instance, is punishable by death, which probably means that anyone seeking access to websites deemed blasphemous by the Islamic authorities is risking his or her life in doing so. As we have seen of late, other behavior, including adultery, can lead to a sentence of death by Islamic courts. But it remains uncertain what punishments, if any, can be meted out for the act of searching for porn.

“It’s a new phenomenon,” Reynolds said.