ISLAMABAD: While the brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab shook the entire nation, it also broke centuries-old taboos and stereotypes attached with such cases, by giving courage to victim families to speak out rather than hiding the incidents of sexual abuse.
“Soon after the Zainab’s murder case a drastic change has been noticed in the attitude and behaviour of families towards such cases,” Mumtaz Gohar, Senior Programme Officer Media at Sahil NGO, told The Express Tribune.
“Now we can see that the victim families, especially from remote or conservative areas, are coming forward to talk and seek justice for their children without any fear or shame,” he said.
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While quoting an example of recent shocking incident in which a father sexually abused his 14-year-old daughter in Lahore, Gohar said, “Her mother, instead of hiding the case, went to the police station to register an FIR against her husband and after being refused by the police made all efforts to get it registered.”
Later medical reports did confirm that the girl was raped by her father.
Gohar said that in a conservative society like Pakistan, people had now started openly discussing child sexual abuse. He added that they had even started pointing out their family members or relatives or friends involved in this heinous crime, without being ashamed.
“This change has come after the media, especially electronic and social media, took up the Zainab case, in the wake of a suo motu notice by the Chief Justice of Pakistan,” he said.
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While answering a question, he said that last year’s report had revealed that around 47% of perpetrators of sexual abuse were known to the child or were relatives or close family friends.
Meanwhile, DSP Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Motorways Asma Naqvi who recently recovered an 11-year-old boy Hammad abducted from Abbottabad, said, “ I was so touched by the Zainab murder case that the moment I came to know about the abduction of this 11-year-old, I made all-out efforts to recover him.”
She told The Express Tribune that Hammad was abducted by one of his neighbours named Usman, a fourth-year student who was taking him to Lahore.
Soon after the family of Hammad realised that he was missing, they contacted the Motorway Police and shared their pictures instantly, she said.
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Therefore, with the help of the CCTV footage, DSP Asman contacted Motorway Police photographer and asked him to check his pictures with a recorded movie he made of passengers.
In the meantime, DSP Asma took the passenger's details and searched out the name of Usman and found out that he had switched his name to Hammad. After searching for the accused, she managed to find the culprit travelling on a bus coming from Abbottabad.
She told The Express Tribune that she took the contact number of bus driver from the history sheet of passengers and asked the driver to check the passengers travelling on seat numbers 5 and 6. He checked it and told her the age and dresses of both the boys. In the meanwhile, the photographer found the movie of the boys and provided screen shots.
Later, the bus was searched at Sila More service area and the boy was recovered and the culprit handed over to the Abbottabad police.
“The reason behind all this effort was to avoid another case like Zainab, who became victim of this inhuman act mainly because of the society’s ignorance,” she said.
Moreover, a senior gynaecologist who wished not to be named, said, “Since Zainab’s case was highlighted in the media, I have noticed a surge in the number of cases where mothers have brought their daughters who directly or indirectly experienced sexual assaults and needed treatment.”