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  • Writer's pictureshazia nizam

Zainab and the Collective Conscious

The rape and murder of a 7 year old girl in Kasur, Punjab, Pakistan 2 days ago has led to a huge outpouring of grief showing the heartbreak of the nation, and disgust at the inhumanity of the act.

Many have said they have no words and many have posted social media statuses to raise our voices and justice for Zainab. So what about that. Raise those voices. Raise a collective consciousness about abuse and speaking out. This is still a taboo subject culturally and with the misguided thought around ‘what will people say’ or being told to not cause a fuss or to be blamed for encouraging that kind of behaviour, we are left with a society afraid to speak freely.

Yes at a public level this crime has illicit many protests, including in Kasur where instead to focusing on catching this and the many similar perpetrators, protesters were shot by the police. Kasur has a history of violence and abuse that is not dealt with by the legal and judicial system. The police chief has just been sacked and that is a good step forward, however, in a country where child pornography is still not banned and there is little protection for children there is a long way to go.

There are protests being held over the country. Many celebrities and well known personalities are speaking up and speaking is what needs to happen. One actress asked for the punishment to be such that it scares anyone else into committing this crime again. I have read some comments about how the culprit should be caught sentenced and hanged. Now I’m not here to talk about the sentiments of anger against such a heinous crime.

What I do want to talk about is what do we know about the freedom to speak. How do we use the freedom to speak and who chooses that freedom to speak.

Each one of us can make a change, because change happens from within. If we want to change a national taboo around speaking about abuse then we have to change ourselves. As more people change themselves, that’s when a nation can change not just its attitudes but what happens.

So we need to take control of the narrative. What does that mean? That means speak out against abuse. Call it out when you know its happening. Erase the idea of it being taboo. If its out in the open things will shift. Abuse is not a new phenomenon. Its been happening since time immemorial. Across the globe. Stories do not vary a great deal. Words like honour get bandied about with a highly eerie and heavy slant on victims being at fault. There is a common misconception that one would save face by keeping quiet. And at what cost? The rape and strangulation of a 7 year old who gets dumped in a ditch with trash. Thats what.

What I have seen in the media over the last two days is a lot of moral support but what we are faced with on a daily level is the moral police. Its time to do something. For these voices to raise — yes. For consciousness to raise — yes. There needs to be a national campaign to educate. To remove sense of taboo. For children to know what signs to look for. For parents to keep their children safe. For Government to change laws. For schools to create space to educate. Social causes in drama serials are not enough. This change needs to happen from the core.

There have been at least 5 other cases (some say 7) in Kasur this month alone. It’s just 20 km from Raiwand — a place where an annual religious convention is held. These are the places this should be discussed.

I want to do something so I am going to raise my voice and create a social campaign for national use about the freedom to speak. I will be asking for your help to get it viral. Contact if you want to get involved.


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