Zainab murder case: It’s time to speak up, Pakistan

The brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab has once against highlighted an issue that is seldom talked about: the rampant sexual abuse of children in Pakistan. The rape and murder of Zainab got the attention of social media and subsequently the mainstream media also picked up the story, otherwise Zainab’s murder would have proved to be just another addition to the statistics.

What is worrying is that this was not the first case of rape and murder in Kasur. The count being circulated in media is at least 12 reported rape and murder cases in the past twelve months in the city. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A 2017 report by non-government organization (NGO) Sahil put the figure of child abuse cases at 11 a day. Sahil said in the report that a total of 4,139 cases were registered in 2016, an increase from 3,768 in 2015. The report added that 2,410 girls and 1,729 boys were victims of sexual exploitation last year.

These are just the reported figures; the actual number is likely to be much higher (probably four or five times the reported figure, at least). Yet instead of talking about the issue and doing something to fix it, the usual attitude in Pakistan is to hide such cases. Even the media is usually reluctant to talk about such issues, because apparently talking about such subjects portrays a ‘negative image’ of the country. This is the harsh reality in Pakistan; we are fearful of reputation of our country but we are okay with the rampant abuse of kids in our society that happens on a daily basis.

A report last year said that in most cases of child abuse the perpetrator is someone who knows the child – a relative, a teacher, a tutor, a driver, a house worker, someone who imparts religious education or any other acquaintance. The abuse can happen anywhere, at your own home, at school, at a seminary or in a vehicle. No place is safe for kids in Pakistan.

Unless as nation we realize the gravity of the problem by admitting it in the first place and start to speak against it, our children will continue to be abused and tormented while we try to save ours and our country’s ‘reputation’.

Zainab’s murder has jolted the society, but it would be an even bigger tragedy if this jolt proves temporary and nothing is done to save the children of our country. The longer we hide the issue, the more chances that the next kid to be abused could be our very own. It’s time to speak up Pakistan.

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