A 7 year old girl was raped, strangled and dumped in a trash heap in Kasur, Pakistan. The victim’s body, who we now know as Zainab Ansari, was found last Tuesday after being missing for five days when she went for religious tutoring. Her parents were on Umrah or pilgrimage to Mecca when they found out the news. Side by side photos of her smiling face in a pink jacket alongside her lifeless body amongst garbage were circulated around the internet. Outrage followed and riots broke out in Kasur with some 1,000 protesters angered by authorities who had not caught the culprit yet. Zainab, who went missing on January 4th, was last seen walking with a man on CCTV footage. Protests have broken out across the country featuring some of Pakistan’s most notable entertainers and activists.
Mushtaq Sakheer, the Inspector General Punjab, the province where Kasur is located, said that the DNA found on Zainab probably matched to a suspect’s who has been linked to six other cases. He added that more than 200 people were arrested from these cases along with 67 DNA samples. Punjab
Though politicians were slow to release statements, celebrities were quick to state their outrage and Twitter went alight with the hashtag #JusticeForZainab. Mahira Khan, one of Pakistan’s most popular and highly paid actresses, called for the government to make an example of killer.
Writer and actor Osman Khalid Butt lamented at the repeated pattern of child abuse writing on Facebook and Twitter:
Osman was referring to a pedophilia ring near Kasur in 2015 where over 200 children were recorded being sexually abused and having it sold as child pornography. However, very little has been done in the case and of the some dozen suspects linked to the gang, only two have been convicted.
Zainab is not the first victim of the Indian subcontinent’s attitude towards rape, nor will she be the last.
Pakistani society has had difficulty talking about subjects like rape and child abuse, as they were deemed too taboo. tweet
In fact, her rape and murder was the 12th recorded case to happen within “two-kilometre radius of [Kasur] over the last year.” Zainab’s case has brought forward the cases of other victims, including six year old Kainat Batool, one of the 12 victims in Kasur who was raped and attacked in November but the only one survived. Similarly to Zainab she was taken close to her home and her body was also left nearby. She is currently in a coma and so traumatized that she cannot speak nor recognize anyone. Her parents are too poor to afford proper medical care. Here journalist Mukarram Kareem tells her story and breaks down while urging justice for all children.
Out of 12 children abducted & raped in past one year in Kasur only one has survived the barbarity. Her name is #KainatBatool. She is still recovering from the trauma and forget about justice, as per this reporter @GovtOfPunjab isnt even looking after her medical needs@CMShehbaz pic.twitter.com/AklUp5rhmH tweet
Pakistani society has had difficulty talking about subjects like rape and child abuse, as they were deemed too taboo. In 2016, the hit Pakistani drama Udaari centered around pedophilia, child rape, harassment, receiving justice from the legal system and going after the perpetrators openly. The show was highly praised for highlighting this issue but faced constant calls to be blocked by Pakistani censorship board known as PEMRA for “immoral content.”
However, many Pakistanis argued it would be wise to worry about the “immoral content” of some members of society who’ve slipped away from accountability due to the weak justice system and the fear victims’ and their families have to speak out due to society’s repercussions and judgement. Without accountability, people like Zainab’s rapist and murderer will continue to think they’re entitled to their behavior and will believe so until swift and thorough justice is carried out.
At one protest at the Karachi Press Club, actor and TV host Faysal Quraishi was frustrated at the lack of open discussion on sexual abuse.“We have addressed a similar issue before. We have made various dramas about it as well. But here’s the thing…How can a five or six-year-old girl resist a grown man? We are blaming the parents, blaming the issue and not being aware enough. But there is sound awareness regarding sexual abuse in American schools and it’s happen there as well. The only difference is that we see results there. Justice is served.”