A young Indian’s challenge to Pakistan

A young Indian’s challenge to Pakistan
Vigil for Zainab Ansari and other children in Kasur. Photo: K.M. Chaudhary/AP

Are Pakistan and India competing for shamefulness? Surely we can do better…

By Sharmin Vohra

By Sharmin Vohra

A most horrific incident making media waves in Pakistan relates to the kidnapping, rape and murder of a little girl, Zainab in Kasur. This is certainly not the first incident there, or even elsewhere. Such incidents have been happening, affecting many homes, and are buried in every heart including mine.

Just about every girl in Pakistan and India has faced sexual harassment in one or other form while growing up. I remember watching the film Highway, a masterpiece by Imtiaz Ali, some years ago with friends. Afterwards, we discussed how we saw parallels with our own lives, with Alia Bhatt’s character’s childhood. Her sexual harassment by her uncle that stayed hidden behind the curtains of the house till she grew up, helped us share our own experiences.

I also remembered one of my visits to Pakistan, when I met a very pretty girl studying engineering at one of the top universities. I asked her,’’ why do you wear a hijab, you have such beautiful hair?’’.

“I was sexually abused”, came her response. It pinched my heart and made me dumbstruck.

Indian schoolchildren participate in an awareness campaign rally to mark World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Violence against Children, in Hyderabad, India, Nov. 19, 2014. File photo.

Since the rise of social media, a pattern has emerged when it comes to heinous crimes. An incident gets reported, goes “viral’’ when it is shared across e-news pages and social media platforms. Everyone seems to be in the run to share their views and getting maximum likes. TV and print media don’t stay far behind. Debates and talk shows focus on that issue. Activists organise dharnas, candlelight vigils and so on. Political leaders and celebrities jump in. This goes on for a few days or weeks. Then it gets wiped off. “Out of sight, out life’’.

When this happens in India, Pakistanis point fingers and say, “shame on you”. When it happens in Pakistan, Indians do the same.

The tragedy of the children in Kasur makes me wonder, is Pakistan getting into a competition with India about this too?

An awareness raising poster to prevent abuse. Courtesy: TabeerforPak.com

An awareness raising poster to prevent abuse. Courtesy: TabeerforPak.com

Such violations also happen in India every day. But one particular such incident has not made it to the social media “viral” stage of late. People have been tackling the issue of child abuse on a daily basis through education, street plays, self-defence for girls, and so on.

So, I challenge you, Pakistan, beat India in this. Let your land of pure be so pure that no girl or woman feels insecure and cursed because of her gender. Let the tragedy of Zainab and other children become a catalyst for campaigns that help children, girls, and women breathe freely and deeply and spread their wings towards success in every role they play.

Let this be a starting point for Pakistan’s journey towards becoming the most secure nation rather than the country that watches the most porn.

Bollywood star Aamir Khan’s groundbreaking workshop on child sex abuse prevention reproduced on the Pakistani website Parhlo (Educate). More information at the Child sexual abuse page, SatyamevJayate

Let this happen during my lifetime so that the celebration of the success be much bigger than the 180-run win against India at the ICC Champion’s trophy cricket final on 18 June 2017.

Let’s do it, Pakistan. I’m with you.

The writer is co-founder in Pakistan of AIESEC, the world’s largest youth run organisation present in 125+ countries. Currently based in Dubai, she is UAE Indian peace youth ambassador to Pakistan. Email [email protected]

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