This New Year started with a news that shocked the whole nation. A seven-year-old girl with blue eyes went missing on 4 January when she was on her way for a Quran class. Five days after that, on 9 January, 2018, that same girl’s body was found in a pile of trash. The postmortem report claimed that she had been raped and murdered. The whole nation mourned this tragedy as it was later found that the little girl’s parents had gone for Umrah and were to come home to the funeral of their beloved daughter, the 7 year old Zainab.
What happened after that will be recorded as one of those times in the history of Pakistan where the power of people brought justice home. Media on all levels, be it news channels, newspapers, social media, blogs, united in raising their voice against this barbaric act. They rattled the people who were responsible for ensuring justice by incessantly writing and speaking about the tragedy that had befallen not just Zainab’s parents, but all parents alike. They demanded the government to use all means possible to find the criminal and persecute him, making him an example for others. Every parent, every person with an iota of softness in their heart mourned the heartbreaking way little Zainab had met with her death.
On 23rd January, 2018, fourteen days after Zainab’s body was found, the police arrested the criminal. The accused goes by the name of Imran Ali and lived in the neighborhood. The suspect’s DNA matched and was caught from Pakpattan after he had fled the crime scene. He has now confessed to his crime saying he was in the “possession of jinns” and that he could not have done such a thing.
In the aftermath of the Zainab tragedy, let us not forget that the root cause remains intact. If I say that today is a happy day, then may be it is. However, I cannot ignore the fact that the mindset that leads to so many heinous crimes against children is still there. Seeing the face of the man who actually did this crime scares me because I see the face of an animal in disguise. What scares me even more is that this is just tip of an iceberg. Countless such cases go unnoticed and unreported. We cannot celebrate just yet. We have a lot more to do.
A pedophile is someone who feels attraction towards children who have not yet reached puberty. It is actually a mental illness. A pedophile will hunt for children the same way an animal hunts for food. There is no self-remorse or guilt in such people when they do the things they do. If you ask a professional about pedophilia, they will tell you that there is no cure. The focus then remains on protecting our children.
Educating our children to protect themselves in a better way is the first step in keeping them safe. This is not something that you can inculcate in them overnight. It remains a constant effort on the part of parents as well as teachers at school. Every school, either private or under government, should be directed by the state authorities to start such sessions for children at an early age. While activists, people on social media and bloggers have been writing about such things after the Zainab incident, a campaign of such sort that has government backing can have a huge impact. I stress, it is the need of the hour.
We must empower our children in ways that makes it comfortable for them to communicate their feelings to their parents. An abuser will always target the guilt of a child or a victim. He will hammer down feelings of “being bad” in a child’s mind so that the child shares nothing with his parents or elders, fearing punishment from them. As absurd as it sounds, it happens in almost all cases of child molestation. The child starts thinking that the abuse was a result because they were indeed “bad”. A child should be made to believe that no matter what happens, good or bad, he can easily share it with his parents or elders. Parents, you will need to handle your child very wisely and tactfully so that communication flows freely between you and your child. There are scores of online material available for free to help you in this regard.
Now we move on to the abuser’s side. The next and the more difficult step in this whole process is to find and fix the elements in society that has made such incidents so common. When rape has become so rampant, it is actually signaling a deterioration of a society. So many different aspects will have to be considered and so many people in different area of expertise will have to be brought on board for this. It is by no means an easy journey to embark on. However, this is something that is now more important than ever. I say it is a journey, rather than a task, because this will require a constant hard work from people in all walks of life, and we might not see the results in our lifetime. We must work towards making this country a safer place for the next generations.
The main question is what creates a rapist, or a pedophile? Common people like ourselves can identify only some of the more obvious causes, like lack of education, lack of empathy that has resulted from the spoils of our society in general, lack of guilt that has sprouted from a lack of accountability in the country, knowing they can get away with it, lack for respect for the opposite gender and for minors, and many more.
With all that being said, there is no reason why a criminal should be dealt with leniency. No mental illness should be made reason for a criminal to be abdicated from his crimes. If a criminal is mentally deranged and is a threat to society, they should either be institutionalized or taken care of as per the severity of their crimes. In the case of Imran Ali, it might be that he will try to play the mental illness card but that shouldn’t give him the immunity he seeks. The people of Pakistan want a public prosecution so that this man should serve as an example for all such animals who are still doing it. Our children are our legacy and this country’s future, and it is only us who will need to work towards ensuring their safety.