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A hashtag that has created a wave of awareness and has infuriated as well as broken the hearts of almost everyone across Pakistan and internationally; #JusticeForZainab. The fact that we have reached the point of needing such hashtags in the first place is what is most concerning. Zainab, a 7-year-old little girl in Kasur, was recently sexually abused, murdered, and dumped into the trash; her innocence left to shreds.
I won’t say her honor was stripped off of her or that her family’s respect has been snatched away due to this grave incident; common terms we hear when someone in our country is sexually abused. Why is it that the rape victim is the one who has to be labeled as the defeated? Just because a person – be it a girl or a boy – has been sexually abused does not mean their honor has been damaged.
The idea of “honor” in Pakistan is, unfortunately, most commonly housed in a woman’s body. Rarely does anyone point out that when a rape takes place, it is not the victim who should feel ashamed, but the rapist who dared to commit such a sick and heinous crime? This concept of misogyny that sadly still exists in Pakistan, in spite of us living in 2018 is the deep-rooted cause of incidents like Kasur’s rape cases and the various honor killings that take place across Pakistan on a daily basis.
A man who has seen and been taught that women are “weak” or “powerless” and that women are beings whom he must protect and honor, will see sexual abuse as a form of exerting his power and authority over a being whom he can physically hurt.
Young boys of our societies must be taught that women are not weak beings whom they are responsible for, but that women are beings different from them – certainly not inferior to them. Once mothers and fathers teach their young boys at a young age that women are not theirs to protect or exert power on, we will have men who would think twice before forcing their might on women, both sexually as well as physically.
In light of this, it is also about time we openly speak upon the topic of child sexual abuse which we are hushed over if we even say it as if it is some kind of curse word. “He/she’s a child! Do not talk about private parts. They’ll eventually learn to be careful.” “Don’t spoil their innocence by putting these things in their mind.” “He/she is just a silly child, don’t listen to their stories.”
Isn’t it ironic? There are uncountable people all over the world complaining and fighting about not being heard and being oppressed from voicing their opinions, but it is many of these very people who chain two tiny lips together and stop them from speaking when they really need to be heard.
Let us talk about their “innocence being scarred”. Avoiding this discussion with children only because one feels it is embarrassing or awkward or would make them mature before their age is a silly concept; because teaching them through informative discussions is far better than them having to learn the hard way – or learn way down the road when they are adults and it is too late.
Drawing awareness towards child sexual abuse does not scar their innocence, the horrific moments in which a child’s innocence is snatched by a certain beast, only because the child was unaware how to protect themselves is what scars their innocence. We must remind our children that if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable in any way or touches them in a sense which makes the child feel awkward, they must right away tell their parents – no one else but their parents.
After this, it is the parent’s job to open their eyes and consider their child’s preference. Do not force your child to meet with or play with or even sit with someone who makes them feel uneasy and most importantly, do not hush your child and ask them to be “polite”.
To add on, “Be careful, strangers are dangerous. Stranger danger! Be careful.” It is funny how we drill this into a child’s mind ever since the time they begin to comprehend rules and precautions. While teaching your child that they must be careful and save themselves from the monsters living outside their homes, they must also be reminded that monsters who roam on the streets in the open may sometimes disguise themselves as kind people – their favorite adult – showering them with chocolates and presents. Do not teach your child that everyone around them is suspicious or bad; just teach them to be as careful and vocal at home as they should be outside their homes.
Listen to your children, observe their change in behavior around certain people. Protect them, save them – and then teach them to protect and save themselves. Teaching them to be careful won’t scar their innocence, but it may save them from having it snatched away by a beast.
Little Zainab had an excruciatingly painful end to her tiny life, but she left behind a great lesson and message for all of us. She left behind a message that we must always stand against child sexual abuse; regardless of whether or not the case is hyped through media.
We must stand strong and remind our country’s government that if the justice system fails such children, we as citizens will not allow these children to be failed. We will not leave more Zainab to suffer and die a death nobody deserves. Stand with Zainab. Stand with all children – both, boys and girls.
Read Also: Zainab Case: A Wake-Up Call For All Of Us