How many Zainab’s will it take?

By: |Abdul Moiz Malik|

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Societies are plagued with elements that can’t be termed as humans. Every now and then these vile elements exploit the innocence of our people to satisfy their putrid appetite. The result is what we called crimes.

Crimes are everywhere, In every society. There is a chasm between good and bad. Crimes can be very heinous. But, some crimes – or one incident – are so much so that they prove to be a jolt for the collective conscience of the people. The abduction and later murder of innocent 7 year old Zainab was the same. Society was jolted. People were outraged. There was hue and cry, Demand for exemplary punishments to culprits, even public hanging.

There was anger, a lot of it and people were furious. The threshold has been reached. People decided they can’t take it anymore. So, they came out in masses, protesting and venting out all the veiled anger that had been burning for a long time, but, wasn’t strong enough. So, it got the final ignition with his incident and the result is what we all saw; a unanimous display of sympathy by the entire country.

Now, let’s not talk the usual – what everyone else is talking – rhetoric. Let’s not follow the flock. No usual blame games. No blatant politicking and no spurious sympathies.

Let’s talk about how as a society we have reached such turpitude? Why our kids so insecure? What’s lacking? What can we do? and Who is responsible?

The responsibility is three folds; parents, system and society

The biggest onus is on the parents, the onus is for them to raise a child who is self aware and knows about the rights and wrongs, knows what sexual harassment and sexual exploitation is and what measures to take if such an incident occurs.

We live in a closely-knit society. Joint families and frequent meetings with relatives have been our tradition and families have great proximity. But, unfortunately the society that we’ve become today, trust is scant. We cannot trust anyone. In most cases of molestation, the perpetrators are relatives or close members of a family whom we trust blindly and so do our kids. As per CCTV footage, the abductor of Zainab was also someone who she knew and she can be seen comfortably walking with the man. We should explain very explicitly to our kids as to what extent they should feel comfortable with others and what should be the limits. If that limit is crossed and they feel even a modicum of discomfort, they should tell the parents. No one, not even the closest of relative should be allowed to inappropriately touch or show affection to kids and kids should know that even if it may seem offensive to some near and dear ones.

Parents should be more open in discussion on topics like molestation and abuse with their children. The taboo around such topics should be broken. The environment should be conducive so that a child can openly talk about things he/she is uncomfortable with. The responsibility of kids should not be left over to others. If it’s indispensable to leave kids with someone, it shouldn’t be maids, housekeepers or distant relative or friends.

Then there is the responsibility of system. System should be robust enough to catch the culprits. Not only that, they should be served exemplary punishment. In this case, there was utter apathy of entire governmental machinery. A girl was abducted and couldn’t be recovered in 5 days and all this happened in a small district of Kasur. Not only that, police have been ignorant of all the similar cases that happened before this and had there not been this strong outrage, this case would have joined the list of those cases that were not enough to move the state.

This is outright criminal negligence by the police.

Moreover, in the cases where criminals are arrested, the investigations system is so archaic and flawed that these wicked culprits easily exploit it and get away. Our judiciary is already piled up with heap of cases. This along with weak interrogation lead to absolving of culprits and they roam free again. Modern investigation method should be implied. Forensic methods should be more readily used. DNA can be sought for help. There should be a quick trial because this scourge is a torment for our kids. There should be separate trials for such cases and they should be swift with any negligence also be considered an offence. Measures like public hanging – just because of the outcry –  are not detrimental enough if culprits know that they can get away if public don’t raise the voice. There should be an even system where every case, whether it causes an uproar or not should begiven same fate and he harshest available punishment.

We need to protect our kids.

Then comes the role of society.

Most importantly the society needs to learn that in these cases, the culprits are those who commit this crime and victims are those who’re subjected to the misery and those who should be ashamed must be the culprits and the victims should be sympathized with.

STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM FOR THESE ABUSES.

We also need to revisit our conduct. One should not be afraid of consequences and what people will say before reporting such incidents of abuse. Victims should be supported in their decision to register a case and pursue it. It’s not a choice so why should victims be ashamed of?

Also, we need to get over this denial that nothing sort of this evil is a problem for or society. It is. It definitely is. We need to be more pragmatic in our discourse. We should talk on this issue rather openly. We need more T.V. serials on this issue. More counseling of people on how to react if something like this happens with their kids is required. What are the legal bindings and how they can take the course of law to get justice. Amir Khan once talked about the issue of child abuse in an episode of his reality show Satyamev Jayatey. We also need such shows. Also, this topic should be added in curriculum to apprise kids more. Discussing this issue with kids will neither spoil them nor is it a conspiracy to inflict our generation. We need to get out of this cocoon of shame. It’s a reality now.

If after all this an incident happens, then media should not jump on the bandwagon of sensationalism. Please, don’t turn someone’s tragedy in to a ratings quest. Also, politicians should express their sympathies without blatantly exploiting the issue for political mileage. The general populace should not be blinded by their political mileage at the time of such incidents. We should not be callous enough to discriminate. Mashal Khan’s lynching in Swat, Shazaib Khan’s murder in Karachi or Zainab’s murder in Kasur is an equal tragedy for the entire country and we should view them above our biases.

In all honesty, this should be a juggernaut for the entire system. This is the most vicious call for reforms. This system has failed Zainab. The police, the law, the society, all have failed Zainab. I don’t want to pin point who should resign and who should not, but, everyone in the hegemony is culpable and basic sense of morality demands that everyone responsible should resign if they have a conscience that is shaken by this incident.

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