The news of a 16-year-old girl in Rawalpindi allegedly kidnapped and gang-raped for two consecutive days should make us bow our heads in shame. But is it really shocking when sexual assaults of minors — male or female — have become a frequent occurrence in Pakistan?
Just last week, a report on rape cases recorded in the city of Lahore alone — since January this year — stated a shocking number of 141 cases. Accused in all of the cases were granted bails. One can assume the number of many such cases that go unreported to be higher. Families often chose to sweep the issue under the carpet owing to the shame attached to a survivor, or perhaps because of the very fact that the accused are not punished and instead let off in the very communities they had committed the crime.
The two accused in the Rawalpindi case too were not arrested until the teenager died and the case attracted media attention. The eight-grader, who was allegedly abducted on the roof of her own home at gunpoint on August 8, was found unconscious in one of the accused’s house. Once home, she became sick and succumbed to her wounds on August 19.
When paedophiles have the courage to enter one’s home and abduct a child, it is a matter of national concern. But how many more children would be sacrificed before the state takes stringent actions? Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden speech addressing child-abuse cases and hinting that his government would take strict action over such cases, while the Ministry of Human Rights would focus on it, is a glimmer of hope.
Previous governments have done little to nothing since the Kasur child abuse scandal in 2015 and the more recent, six-year-old Zainab’s rape and murder case in January 2018. We expect the new government to come through on its promises and save our children.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2018.