As if a woman taking a veil or draping herself in a chador will remain safe from harassment, the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa came up with an order on Monday meant to tackle the mounting menace – only to be withdrawn the same day, due to widespread public criticism. As if the problem is with the victim, the order made it mandatory for female students at public schools to cover themselves up with a gown, an abaya or a chador “in order to protect them from any unethical incident” during school timings and while on the way to school from home and back.
The provincial government devised this ‘cover-up’ for catering to the “doubts raised by parents about the safety of their children”, simply ignoring the fact that if at all, this fabric shield solution will subscribe only to girl students, and that too at public schools. What about the girl students enrolled at private schools as well as the boys who are equally vulnerable to the heinous crime that’s so very prevalent in our society? According to a recent report by NGO Sahil, of the total number of child abuse cases in the country in the year 2018, about 49% involved male children.
It’s indeed unfortunate that while the child abuse cases were expected to fall in the wake of the Zainab rape and murder case that sparked widespread outrage and protests across the country at the advent of 2018, they have rather increased. Does that show that even a death penalty to an abuser is insufficient as a deterrent? Well, not exactly. This deterrence needs to be supplemented with many more measures under a comprehensive strategy to deal with the growing social evil.
Instead of applying a shallow solution – like the one that the K-P government tried to enforce – to a deeper problem, there is need to take a holistic approach. The state authorities and all others concerned must come up with a comprehensive strategy that entails strengthening the law, ensuring thick and fast convictions, and changing the societal mindset.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2019.