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University Valentine’s Day ban spurs dangerous ridicule

Romantic love won’t be celebrated this year at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third largest city. To much chagrin, the university – one of the nation’s best – has issued a ‘ban’ on Valentine’s Day.

In its place, Vice Chancellor Dr Zafar Iqbal Randhawa has suggested people observe a newfangled holiday: ‘Sister’s Day’.

“In our culture, women are more empowered and earn their due respect as sisters, mothers, daughters and wife,” he reportedly said.

“We are forgetting our culture and western culture is gaining its ground in our society. Those nations, which forget their cultural values, are diminished from the map of the world.”

The university is contemplating having male students gift ‘scarfs, shawls and gowns’ with the university insignia to female students in lieu of red roses. How it would enforce the ban is unknown.

Detractors criticised and mocked the proposal for its treatment of women.

The Pakistani legal system contains both civic and sharia law, meaning offences against Islam, the state religion, can be tried, and convicts sentenced. Corporal punishments, including flogging and death by hanging, can be imposed.

According to Human Rights Watch, it is becoming increasingly dangerous to be an activist in Pakistan. “Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture take place with impunity,” its website provides.

The country’s most famous activist, girls’ education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, survived an assassination attempt. Many others, such as Sabeen Mahmud, weren’t as fortunate.

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