Karachi, PAKISTAN — On 1 September, Pakistan’s telecom regulator announced it was blocking access to five apps, including dating apps Tinder and Grindr. The decision has infuriated young Pakistanis, who say this will deal an even bigger blow to the limited freedom and agency available to women and sexual minorities in the country.
“Do we need a Sima Taparia just for dick now? The ban is stupid because it is yet another step towards a repressed society where people end up using LinkedIn and Twitter to approach women,” said 30-year-old A*, an Islamabad-based yoga instructor, who said she initially joined Tinder for fun before realising it was a way to meet interesting people. Taparia is a wedding consultant who appeared on the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking.
The ostensible reason given by telecom regulator Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), that they want to check the “immoral/indecent content” on the apps, has also not gone down well with users.
“If the PTA really wants to curtail ‘immoral’ behaviour, maybe they can neuter Pakistani men. That will surely help,” fumed A.
In a country where women, particularly from less privileged backgrounds, find it difficult to meet and interact with men freely, apps such as Tinder offered a way out, even if the aim was merely friendship. The option of getting to know someone away from the excessive interest shown by relatives or matchmakers makes dating apps attractive for young women chafing at restrictions. Homosexuality is banned in the country, making Grindr a go-to option for queer people, especially gay men. While adultery laws were made more lenient in 2006, extramarital relationships can still land participants in trouble.
Reuters has reported that Tinder was downloaded more than 440,000 times in Pakistan within the past 12 months while Grindr and two other banned dating apps Tagged and SayHi had each been downloaded about...