ON the day the Delhi rapists were sentenced, we were alerted to a similar, in some ways even more sickening, crime: the rape of a five-year-old child, kidnapped along with her three-year-old cousin the previous evening from outside her home in Lahore and then left unconscious outside a hospital. The degree of brutality is horrifying, and the reminder that rape remains as much of a problem in Pakistan as ever could not have taken a worse form. The agony of the child and her family don’t bear thinking of. Even so, the country’s electronic news media — which is fast becoming deserving of the label of ethical bankruptcy — found a way to compound the tragedy: some channels didn’t see fit to expend any thought on concerns for the child’s privacy and dignity. Cameras intruded as she was rushed into the operation theatre, photographs of her during happier moments were displayed and her name was disclosed. What, we are left wondering, will it take to have the media industry clean up its act?
Meanwhile, police in Lahore have reportedly apprehended some suspects. It is vital that the investigation be thorough and fast, and those responsible be made to answer for their deed — the heinousness of the crime demands it. Further, Pakistan must make a consolidated effort to address the problem of rape. The figures are already high, and even then women’s rights’ organisations estimate that far too many incidents go unreported. In a country where patriarchy and gender discrimination are woven into the very fabric of society, as well as of the police and court systems, public demand can help. It was the people’s protest that spurred India to toughen its rape-related laws; here, it can help stir a sluggish state into a concerted push to counter rape.