No child’s play

Pakistan has come at serious crossroads. It is imperative that a clear narrative is constructed and followed by the state and society about the significance of our children’s protection.

Zainab Ansari’s case seems to have flooded all restraints of pretention and shame. Pretention by the law enforcement and media involves sweeping the issue under the rug. One of our previous presidents once accused the victims of rape of being unpatriotic. How a victim’s narrative maligns the country? The country isn’t the perpetrator. Need we be ashamed for owning and condemning a criminal act that afflicts our citizen?

According to statistics, upwards of 11 children are raped in the country each day. The numbers of boys precede girls in that. The plight of these victims doesn’t make it to the law enforcement authorities or at times eve the media. Parents feel ashamed and protect the victims from further prying eyes. In these circumstances the sexual offenders and pedophiles know that they can get away with murder.

Who are these pedophiles? In most cases they are familiar persons that have the opportunity to exploit children before carrying out their heinous plans. In the west, psychologists have carried out extensive research on the nature and characteristics of pedophiles. These are charming, often unmarried (and most often) men, who pay stand out for paying extra attention to children, are mentally disturbed, treat children as equals and lure them with gifts.

The situation in Pakistan is no different. Our social practices teach us to trust others. Child sexual abuse is found to be rife in rural areas than urban. The DNA samples from Zainab are a match with the last 5 such victims in Kasur. This is a worrisome trend.

The traits of the child molesters, abusers and killers are in accordance with the international ones. These men are trusted by children and their caretakers. However, most of the time these culprits may be less educated, unemployed and, financially and mentally challenged.

The recent case of Zainab has encouraged many other parents to speak out. The emotional uprising in Kasur and the rest of the country has pressured the government to do more than just offer financial assistance to the victim’s family. Zainab’s father wants the offender apprehended, alive.

However, care needs to be taken that this case isn’t swept away like many others. The country and its leaders (so willing to have a photo-op with the victim’s family) should be willing to combat the criminals of child sexual abuse and murders. Three million rupees for a killed and violated child’s family cannot ameliorate the situation. The state and its machinery i.e., law enforcement, health professionals, educators, legal representatives, policy makers, etc., would have to pitch in and show their commitment to cleanse the society of the criminals.

Socially, it is imperative that the citizens exercise vigilance. Perhaps it may not be wrong for hospitals to start collecting DNA samples of all who come in for checkups and collate the information with the help of NADRA.

We know what needs to be done. We have been mum about it for long. It’s never too late to save another Zainab.

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