Zainab: She Exists Everywhere. Alas!

Zainab: She Exists Everywhere. Alas!
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By Sameena Mohiuddin

The most recent case of child sexual abuse that has alarmed almost the whole world is that of “Zainab”, from Pakistan. A seven year old girl, with a tender body, innocent eyes, pure and clean thoughts, having no concept of torture that she went through, has not only been raped but murdered and dumped on a pile of waste. Imagining the cruelty that was done to her childish body is inconceivable. As per reports, Zainab was 12th girl to be sexually assaulted and killed in the past two years from the 2-kilometre district in Kasur, Pakistan. The city is only 30 kilometer away from Lahore. While media attention is focused on Pakistan, the fact is that Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is not limited to Pakistan or any other particular country; this societal problem exists in almost every part of the world. As per BBC reporting (dated 1/Dec/2017), in India, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes, that means 4 children are sexually abused every hour. According to reports on crimes in India for 2016, released by Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi, 36,022 cases were recorded under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offence) act. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey says that India is home to the largest number of sexually abused children in the world, but there is general reluctance to talk about the topic so the real number of cases could be much higher (BBC report).
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) exists almost everywhere. In Kashmir, which is considered a conservative society the existence of such a problem is unimaginable for most of the people. Recently, the court awarded capital punishment to a convict after 12 years and charged him with kidnapping, raping and killing a six-year-old girl in Mehjoor Nagar, Srinagar. The case, considered to be a rarest of rare cases, was finally concluded in January 2018 and the verdict given. There have been many other cases of CSA in Kashmir where victims have never reported the abuse in police stations or to any other organisation, they do not have even disclosed it to their parents.
The statistics of CSA in Kashmir are not available; as no such research has been conducted, but as per the research conducted during my Master’s degree it has been found that three among every four girls have been sexually abused, in district Srinagar, sometimes more than once by a known person (in some cases more than one person). Due to societal pressures , boy victims are very reluctant to come forward but this doesn’t mean that boys, in Kashmir, are not victims of the same; 25% of the victims in my sample in the research were boys and were identified through different sources. Not even a single survivor among them has reported the abuse in a police station or to any other organisation and only 12% disclosed the abuse to their parents after more than three years of serial abuse. Some of the victims were abused once and some of them were abused for 10 years or more.
CSA is a bit complex problem and dealing with it in a proper way is not easy. Being a secret crime, it is very easy to hide and one cannot figure it out if it is not being disclosed by the survivor himself or herself. We have been neglecting the prevalence of CSA in Kashmir but the fact is it is prevalent here and is rising at an alarming rate. As long as we will keep ignoring the fact, our children will be more vulnerable for the same. There is a dire need of taking some good steps to improve the condition either socially or legally, either personally or publicly which , in turn can be done create awareness not only among parents but among children as well. Though, many countries have not only improved the laws dealing with CSA, but have also formed new ones but, it still has not been eradicated completely. In Kashmir, before old laws will be improved and new implemented (POCSO) there is a need to make change in every possible way. Yes, there is a greater need for implementation of Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) act in Kashmir and it must be implemented soon, until the formality and process will be completed the basic requirement to prevent the disease must be fulfilled. There are few ways of creating safer environment:
Adults can make sure children are kept safe by checking on areas, especially for small and differently abled children;
Only suitable people should be made to work with children, under supervision. There are many cases where domestic helpers have abused children;
Most important thing is to get involved in the life of children by showing interest in their daily activities, giving those spaces to open up. Know people around your child, choose babysitters and domestic helpers carefully; teach them warning signs, teach them about good touch and bad touch and make them trust their instinct. The more the child will be confident about his or her instinct more he or she he will be able to differentiate between good touch and the bad one;
The best way to prevent your child from sexual abuse is by creating awareness about it among children as per their own level of understanding; it could be through storytelling, demonstration through dolls, or demonstration on their own bodies by pointing which part is safe to be touched and which is not or by showing them videos that could demonstrate for you;
Spend time with your children and be available, make them feel that you will be there to listen anything.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of CSA is a harsh reality of our society. The more we will run away from its existence, the more it will get ensconced in our society. It is about time that we recognize the issue and do something about it.

—The author is a Researcher on CSA. She can be reached at: sameenakhaja12@gmail.com