My Facebook newsfeed has been flooded with the news of seven-year-old Zainab’s rape and murder in Kasur for the last two days.
And to be quite honest I still don’t have words to express everything I’m feeling…
Denial that a human being can do this to another human, let alone a child;
Rage that such animals exist among us;
Outrage that our leaders are still “taking notice” (this is the 12th such case to occur within a two-kilometre radius of the city over the last year);
And utter shock and disbelief as I read some comments and opinions about the parents having left their daughter while they went to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage).
Who are we and what have we become? As clichéd as that sounds, it is the question to ask ourselves. And the answer is unfortunately not one which any of us would like to accept. And it applies to all of us except perhaps, the handful of people who actually do the mehnat, mushaqqat to make this country a liveable place.
Zainab’s rape and murder is a horrific situation but what is even more terrifying is our own blindness. Yes, most of us will share the hashtag #justiceforzainab, some will attend the on-going protests, others might initiate discussions on rape culture and sexual abuse in educational institutions while still others will discuss yet another failure of the government over their dinner.
But how many of us will look at ourselves and recognize that each one of us is part of the problem? That any one of us might be living with an ogler, raising a harasser or worse an abuser and conditioning our children to disrespect women?
Hurts, doesn’t it? You want to stop reading right now, I can tell.
But when you as a mother, talk about ‘that’ girl at the shaadi last night who was wearing the off-shoulder shirt or tell your son that “Hina Aunty’s daughter will make you a good wife…she’s so pretty” or tell your daughter “Chup ho jao, dupatta phela ke orho” when she complains of being deliberately brushed against in a crowded market, you, yes, YOU are pouring fuel on rape culture. On disrespecting women.
And when you as a father, watch your son staring at a girl in a shop or catch him watching R-rated content, and you brush it off thinking “Larka hai, larkay tou kertay hain aisa”, you are part of the problem.
And when you as parents, point fingers at Zainab’s parents and say that they should not have left her to go for Umrah, you bring shame to the word ‘parenting’ and all that it entails. For a parent is a person who is perpetually afraid for his/her child; is constantly second-guessing him/herself; is always praying for mercy and guidance for this absolutely humongous task given to him/her by the Almighty. So, when you as parents judge her parents, you forget that you are a person, a parent, a human.
You forget how Karma works.
And you dismiss their despair and their brokenness at this time.
We can’t bring Zainab back. We can’t take away her parents’ misery. We can’t protect all the children of Pakistan. We can’t reform the culture overnight.
That’s the truth.
But instead of finding fault in Zainab’s parents, let’s look at ourselves, our families and our homes. Do what you can so that your children, your neighbour’s children, your friend’s children, your niece’s, nephews, grandchildren, students…children on the streets of Pakistan never have to face what Zainab faced, or even close.
Do what you can to protect your children. Do what you can to protect OUR children:
- Educate your sons, their friends and help them educate your male domestic help. No female, let alone a seven-year-old girl, does anything to invite harassment, abuse and/or rape.
- Educate your daughters, their friends and help them educate your female domestic help. Make them sure of themselves; tell them to call for help, complain, create a ruckus, use self-defence, any time they are stared at, whistled at or touched inappropriately.
- Teach children ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touch from an early age. Teach them all the body parts (don’t skim over privates) and show them where only parents can touch them and where others can touch them.
- Teach children (and adults) the meaning and importance of consent. In our culture people get offended if they ask a child to give them a hug and the child doesn’t. Seriously?! People, you need to look beyond your inflated egos and understand how important teaching consent to a child is in today’s times. If a child does not feel comfortable in saying ‘No’ to a hug from his aunt, HOW do you suppose he/she will say ‘No’ to a stranger or worse, a known person who is behaving inappropriately towards him/her???
- Keep your children with you as much as you can, especially until you feel they can fend for themselves.
- Foster open communication with your children, students, children who work or live with you. A child should never fear going to an adult to ask for help. It may be awkward but it can save honour and lives.
And above all, pray for her parents. No parent should have to bear something like this. No parent can live in peace with this. May Allah have mercy on them. Aameen.