It has been a week since we all saw the picture of 8-year-old Zainab Ansari splashed across all media platforms with the horrific story of her rape and murder. Zainab’s mutilated body was found in a heap of trash four days after she went missing in her home town of Kasur. The same incident had taken place with 11 young girls before Zainab, with only one of the 11 having survived.
The first thought that came to my mind when I saw her story was the Kasur child pornography scandal of 2015 with around 280 cases of child sexual abuse being exposed. My instant reaction was: “Wait? Didn’t they catch those guys?”
Guess what? They did not.
It was then that I discovered that the cases had become political and were dismissed by minister for law Rana Sanaullah as nothing more than a Land Dispute. Despite all the media uproar that the Kasur scandal had received at the time, it wasn’t long before those 280 innocent children and their families had been forgotten by the mainstream. Had that not been the case, maybe what happened to Zainab and the 11 other girls who suffered a similar fate, along with the countless others we are unaware of, could have been prevented. We need to make sure that we do not forget Zainab the way we forgot those children. We must at least try.
Zainab’s smiling picture and the sheer horror of the incident has resulted in an outcry from the general public. Immediately after, protests erupted throughout the country, with celebrities and eminent personalities participating from the front.
Some pressure resulted in reforms in the Sindh Educational Board, with awareness of child sexual abuse being introduced into the curriculum. Well known female personalities like Nadia Jamil, Freiha Altaf and Maheen Khan came forward and bravely shared their own experiences of sexual abuse with the hashtag #metoo. The Justice for Zainab Instagram page has people from all across the world demanding justice for her. The hashtag #justiceforzainab is still trending across all social media platforms, groups are being formed and protests being organized. But the question is: for how long?
How long before the lack of any movement on the part of those in power, lack of any progress in actually catching the culprits, and the disappointment of not seeing any substantial results, once again disheartens us and we move on to something else. Let’s not let that happen this time! We owe this to those innocent lives that have been lost, to their families, and most importantly, to the unknown potential victims of these heinous perpetrators. We must at least try.
There are two aspects which need to be addressed here. The first is the political angle and arresting the actual culprit. The Chief Justice has stated that he wants the culprits to be found alive and not killed in an encounter. It is so important that this is done. At the moment, there has been no significant progress in finding the culprit. It is shameful, to say the least, that all the 12 incidents have occurred within a 2 km radius over a period of two years and yet not one arrest has been made. The DNA tests conducted on the victims have confirmed that in 6 cases at least, the offender is the same person, now being termed a “serial killer”.
How our police has failed to catch this person who is picking out victims from within such a small area, is baffling.
The task to catch this culprit is not an impossible one, and our police do have the skills and the resources, if only the people involved had a legitimate interest and the will to do so. To this end, it is our duty to continue to put pressure on those in power, in whatever form we can. We must at least try.
The second aspect is to educate our children and raise their awareness about their bodies, right touch & wrong touch, as well as internet safety. There are many informative resources easily available online on how we can talk to our children, raise their awareness and ensure their safety. Statistics show that victims are usually abused by people known to them and whom they trust, from family members, to caretakers, to teachers and acquaintances. Open up communication with your children, do not force them to hug or kiss anyone (even a close family member) if they are not comfortable with it, and let them know that if something inappropriate does take place, they can come and tell you immediately without any fear.
Be present, educate your children, talk to them, and most importantly, listen.
We need to keep talking about child sexual abuse, keep educating, keep pushing for a change, just keep at it. For Zainab and for so many others, for our children, and for our own conscience, we must at least try.