Pakistan has ordered cellular phone carriers to ban the use of about 1,500 words from text messaging that government officials have deemed indecent or offensive — including the words “gay,” “lesbian,” and “homosexual.”
The notice from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was received by at least three Pakistani cell phone carriers — Mobilink, Warid and Telenor — reported CNN.
The PTA calls for carriers to implement the ban, which would mean blocking text messages containing the offending words, within seven days of the notice, which was dated last week.
The move has been greeted with ridicule and derision, particularly by Pakistan’s vociferous users of internet forums and micro-blogging sites like Twitter.
Since the PTA’s lists of offensive English and Urdu words and terms – containing 1,106 and 586 items respectively – became public a few days ago, it has become the butt of jokes on the web.
While the English list has 148 items containing a four-letter swear word, it has had many scratching their heads by including words and terms like athlete’s foot, deposit, black out, drunk, flatulence, glazed donut, harem, Jesus Christ, hostage, murder, penthouse, Satan and “flogging the dolphin”.
The lists of offensive words and terms and a letter written on November 14 by PTA’s Director General (Services) Muhammad Talib Doger, instructing mobile phone operators to start filtering SMS messages, have been posted on numerous internet forums after they were leaked to the media last week.
Doger’s letter indicated that the lists were drawn up after consultations with mobile phone operators over the past few months, and described the filtering is part of a larger effort to halt spam messages.
While homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in Pakistan’s penal code, under Islamic, or Sharia, laws in Pakistan, homosexual acts are punishable by whipping, imprisonment or death, according to the United Nations.