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Breaking the Taboo on CHILD ABUSE

Breaking the Taboo on CHILD ABUSE

Rape is Never the Victim’s Fault!

Children are vulnerable to sexual abuse all over the world. In Pakistan, the dynamics that make them vulnerable are twofold: impunity for perpetrators, which is reflective of the overall weak and easy-to-be-manipulated criminal justice system compounded by low priority given to crimes of this nature by authorities and the taboos around issues related to sexuality as well as the tendency to confuse child protection information with sex education as a result of which children are vulnerable to sexual violence and predators. 

News of heinous crimes of rape and brutal murder of minors immediately catch people’s attention. Sexual abuse of children is widespread in Pakistan and generally it is a tabooed topic, so there is hardly any discussion on it in the mainstream media. It is also because most victims of this despicable act opt not to talk about the agonizing experience and they prefer to suffer in silence. Probably, these survivors do not have words to describe the trauma they are going through.

In Pakistan, rape victims are silenced by cultural taboos, and the perpetrators go scot free. As Louise O’Neill says in her book Asking For It, “They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.”

Zainab, a six-year-old innocent girl, was raped and murdered in Kasur – a city near the Indian border that was once famous for its Sufi shrines, but has now gained the unwelcome epithet of ‘Pakistan’s rape capital’. Kasur was hit by revelations of child pornography in August 2015 when the news emerged that a paedophile ring based in a nearby village had filmed about 280 children being sexually exploited. After one of the victims went public with a video, investigators found that parents who learned of the crimes had stayed silent only to avoid bringing shame on their families in a conservative Pakistan, where sex and rape are taboo subjects. Authorities

were castigated for their sheer neglect in that case, and many residents of Kasur said that it was only after that police took notice of complaints of child abuse. Before 2015, police used to refuse to register rape cases and often blamed the families, discouraging them from filing even the FIRs. That case brought the menace of sexual exploitation of children to light but, unfortunately, did little to curb the crime. And, this deafening silence in the part of law-enforcement agencies resulted in the brutal murder of the seven-year-old Zainab.

After the brutal killing of their beloved daughter, Zainab’s parents chose not to remain silent, they continued to press for justice; breaking a taboo on openly discussing sexual assault in Pakistan that has allowed victims to go ignored and perpetrators unpunished. Nearly two months before Zainab’s killing, an innocent girl named Kainat was attacked and dumped in the trash in Kasur. She was the only one of the 12 child victims to survive, but according to members of her family, she is still disoriented and is unable to recognize them. Her father had drained the family’s finances to pay medical bills so as to get her daughter back to normal life. However, after Zainab’s case became public, little Kainat was offered free treatment at a local hospital. In case of Zainab, after Pakistan’s army chief took notice of the tragic incident, a joint investigation team was formed, involving provincial police officials and Pakistan’s major intelligence agencies. The investigators tested DNA samples from 600 neighbourhood residents and interrogated dozens of people, and successfully nabbed the real culprit named M. Imran Ali, a 24-year-old resident of Kasur.

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About Hassaan Bin Zubair

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The writer is a PhD Scholar (English Literature). He can be reached at:

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