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Activists vow to spread awareness in children as city mourns Zainab’s murder

Updated January 12, 2018

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Young deaf and mute students protest the brutal rape and murder of little Zainab outside the Karachi Press Club on Thursday. 
—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Young deaf and mute students protest the brutal rape and murder of little Zainab outside the Karachi Press Club on Thursday. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: As Karachi united in protests demanding justice for Zainab on Thursday, NGOs, activists, women’s rights groups and members of civil society joined hands to also raise their voices about awareness programmes for children.

At a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, founder and president Zindagi Trust Shehzad Roy with representatives of Aahung made an earnest appeal to introduce such programmes in primary schools across Pakistan.

“I am also a father. Thinking of that innocent child fills my eyes with tears. But I also know that this happens to one in every five children in my country and even after punishing the person responsible for such a heinous act, this kind of thing will not end,” he said.

Joined by Karamat Ali of Piler, civil liberty activist and lawyer Gibran Nasir, actors Mahira Khan, Sanam Saeed, Hina Khwaja Bayat and founder of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee Nazim Haji, the National Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said that it was a well-known fact that when it comes to molesting or raping of children only 10 per cent of the people engaging in such ugly acts are outsiders. There is a CCTV footage of Zainab walking with a man holding her hand. “Ninety per cent of the people who engage in such crimes are familiar faces who the child knows,” he pointed out.

‘When a child reports anything out of the ordinary to the parents, they make him or her shut up’

“But when a child reports anything out of the ordinary to the parents, they make him or her shut up. They are not allowed to say such things about their uncles or aunts. There is no one who believes them,” he said. “And this has an even worse effect on his or her psyche. They are like the walking dead.”

He explained that awhile back the organisation Aahung took it upon itself to take social awareness programmes for children to government schools, but it was stopped by a particular lobby, which mislabelled it as ‘sex education’. “There is a lobby here which says that we are trying to push forth foreign agenda,” said Roy.

“But we should understand this that if you don’t talk to your children and explain to them things such as good touch and bad touch, they are at risk of getting molested which can also lead to rape,” he said.

“The issue won’t be resolved by just punishing the person who did this. Parents have to talk to their children about these things. They should not discourage the child from coming to them to talk about something that makes them feel uncomfortable with anyone. They should not make them feel ashamed,” he said.

“We want to change the debate. We want to make awareness education part of the school curriculum,” he said.

Actor Sanam Saeed also suggested the preparing of short videos as public service messages to spread awareness.

Nazo Pirzada of Aahung said they had a range of thoughtfully designed placards and cartoons for children as young as three years of age.

Gibran Nasir said they had been watching television anchors screaming themselves hoarse about punishing the culprit. “But we should realise that we will be like helping hands of molesters and rapists for fighting the inclusion of social awareness education in schools,” he said.

It was said that Zainab’s was the 12th such case in Kasur, which followed only two years after the largest child pornography ring, including 300 children and their families, uncovered in the same area.

During a meet the press programme, Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Secretary for Information and member of the National Assembly Dr Nafisa Shah, too, condemned the heartless rape, torture and murder of little Zainab.

Outside the KPC the ‘Justice for Zainab’ slogan and banners were raised the entire day. Activists of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf held demonstrations demanding justice.

Mayor of Karachi Wasim Akhtar also joined the demonstration held by Human Development Society. Deaf and mute students also demonstrated demanding that the culprit be brought before the law with no further delay.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2018