Zainab’s tragedy

The growing number of cases of child abuse in a society like ours, where, supposedly we have a complete code of conduct to live our lives within certain ethical limits, is a really shocking phenomenon

The main character involved in sexually abusing and later murdering Zainab is still at large. Since the incident, police investigation has brought into the lime light many other innocent victims. The very news was more than enough to lead anyone into a state of shock and depression. Just imagine the level our society has steeped to. I am wondering where this story will lead. Will it be pushed under the carpet like the last child abuse incident in Kasur? When more than 280 children were sexually abused and filmed, hype was created in the media for a few days and then lost in more sensational breaking news. Will we see some visible punitive action? There is at least a little relief that such cases are being reported at least but the main issue still is the speedy trial and punishing the culprits at large as that seems one of the most important factors for growing number of such cases. The culprits are at ease that they are hardly caught and even if they are the existing system of justice gives them ample time to get the facts twisted and manipulated.

The growing number of cases of child abuse in a society like ours, where we have a complete code of conduct to live our lives within certain ethical limits, is a really shocking phenomenon. Where are we lagging? Can it be attributed to parental negligence or over protection? Can it be the communication barrier between the child and the parent? Is it the society? Is it the invasion of technology or misuse of technology? Is it the educational institutions that are at fault? Is it over emphasis or lack of emphasis on religious education? Is it the cumbersome criminal justice system which creates a feeling of justice being delayed just denied? Is it the easy access to all sorts of information after 3G and 4G technology? Is it the content that is being aired on electronic media? These and many such questions keep boggling our minds in search of reasons and connections.

Parenthood is the most beautiful sacred and precious gift of nature to an individual. But at the same time in our culture and society it faces certain pressures like the traditional family set up; the ethical and cultural values (which were observed decades back), the does and don’ts of discussions and topics to be discussed etc. Though we can observe a slight change in the behaviour and interaction of the parents with their children, still we come across certain cases where children feel reluctant to share even the positive emotions which could be due to some fear such as fear of overreaction or could be just due some standards of respect. This barrier, fear, is at times the root cause when a boy or girl going through the trauma of abuse is unable to share something they want and the result is the ongoing exploitation of the poor souls.

After parents once a child moves to a school may be private or public again the discussion on certain aforementioned topics is prohibited. Teacher student relationships to be more than a robotic relationship as they are the role models for students and at times children would trust teachers more than parents. Unfortunately our three tier system of education doesn’t talk much about sex and sex education due to the prevailing cultural and religious barriers its rather a forbidden theme to talk about. Secondly the teachers do maintain a bit affectionate behaviour in early years but the affection reduces in secondary classes.

Extreme or excessive disciplinary actions by parents or other authority figures like teachers, can create communicative barriers in children that make them more vulnerable to abuse

Let me tell you that a student whatever age group he or she is into needs the same attention and care as per age requirement. Secondly the topics related to biological differences of the genders reproductive systems are usually skipped or taught in fairy tail manner leaving the learner with many queries unattended paving means to unauthentic resources of information. I still remember the facial expression of our lecturer of biology while she was trying to teach us reproductive system as if a crime was being committed. There have been occasions when in private schools when the distributors of the books were asked to paste certain pages with the illustrations and the torn pages could be seen in the books later on.

Over reaction to the innocent queries and response in false statements as adults such as anger and corporal punishments for different reasons create a barrier between the child and the parent Lack of confidence a feeling of insecurity among students are usually observed when extreme reactions are exhibited by parents and schools. This can also include when the child is over protected in the name of discipline or under protected in the name of freedom and confidence. Any type of extreme behaviour on part of the parent, school teachers can lead to different consequences like making him /her vulnerable to abuse, harassment, the child going into isolation, him/her getting hyper active, turning into a bully or him/her becoming an attention seeker who tries to do unusual stuff to gain attention.

It is important to acknowledge that the aggressive attitude of any adult can cause behavioural problems and leads child to a reluctance. The reactions and over reactions not only have impact upon the child s thought and personality but also on the bridge between the parents and child and a student and teacher. This is the major cause when we look at the back ground and history of such cases of abuse; the parental support which could be a source of emotional refuge for a victim was beyond his/her reach. We come across many incidents where the sick act kept happening and the victims could not share it with the actual the parents. In the afore mentioned case the crime had been going on for years but wasn’t reported.

Secondly, the invasion of technology in various forms has played its own significant part. I still remember an article published a few years back in a news paper foreseeing the results of 3G and 4g Technology as a disaster for the society. The deterioration of social and moral values is an open secret and is more than one can imagine. All kinds of information is a lick away no matter what subject it is. All sorts of videos with all sorts of information irrespective of the fact how authentic it is, are available. Curiosity is something natural no matter what its about; be it your environment, your world, human beings or the opposite gender; and technology is there to answer all the questions.

Now all forms of media particularly social media, exchange of information have opened up many vistas of knowledge, the themes and topic s which were and still are taboo now slowly and gradually are a part of routine knowledge. But still the cultural societal and so-called religious restrictions are strong enough to curtail the open expression at times. It is also a fact that the greater the restrictions are the more frustrated one gets. Unfortunately lots of information and knowledge is pouring in from all directions about even what is being considered a taboo. The frustration and anxiety isn’t limited to a certain age group but is widespread amongst all age groups and can easily be assessed with the number of cases reported on daily basis where different age groups are seen involved in child abuse sexual assaults, and harassment etc.

A child spends half of the day at school. Education isn’t just reading writing listening and coming home with a huge bag and lots of home work. Real education must prepare an individual to deal with all sorts of emotional, health, hygienic conditions plus the changes to occur at any stage of life. It is hightime now to review and rethink about inclusion of sex education and how to prepare children for self protection protect oneself from such abusive acts.

After the parent it’s the teacher s responsibility to be the source of authentic and correct knowledge plus preventive measures to protect a child getting into lifelong trauma of abuse. The role of school or teacher in this regard as again is equally important in the current scenario. Psychologists emphasize that let the parent and the teacher be the source of confidence and correct information rather than a secondary or tertiary source. We know in western countries and developed states to educate the students on these important themes is a routine and taken up as normally as it can be as its all about a biological phenomenon.

We are still in transformative phase where we have yet to decide that whether a teacher can talk about the gender and biological differences or not yet we can find a middle way. There used to be particular subject for girls in public schools, Home Economics. It used to be a blend of different themes including health hygiene taking care of oneself in unpleasant situations. It would help a lot the growing girls to understand the biological changes, hormonal disorders, cooking, awareness about certain diseases etc. But it is now hardly seen in schools and is replaced by computer studies. Boys however didn’t have any such subject. Schools must create certain opportunities of psychosocial support and preventive education to give the much needed confidence to the children in this regard or it can be collaboration between the school and home.

Another reason for the growing cases of child abuse is that a hype is created whenever such cases are reported but the lengthy and complicated criminal justice system leaves the issue as a story with no end. We hardly listen to the news of a criminal being penalized in such cases, resulting in adding up to the number of such cases. Quick and speedy trials in such cases are can be a solution in controlling the growing number of cases. Parents, School society media play a key role together as we said earlier. Vigilance balanced and supportive attitude on part of both school and parents. Parents need to understand the importance of their support at different stages of growth. Again each child needs to be treated as a unique individual with maximum opportunity of sharing and communication with parents and teachers.

Awareness and educating sessions child abuse and how to protect children falling prey to any type of abuse are desperately required in current scenario. In Schools this regard library games classes and co curricular activities can be utilized Developing some specific support reading material in coming years can also be considered for both private and public schools. We must have rehabilitation and care centres for the victims so that they can be brought back to a normal life and the impacts of the trauma can be minimized on their personalities. Media still has to play its role. Though many cases brought forward but the sensitivity needs to be the consideration rather than sensation by repeating the news with the images and glimpses of the victims and their families. Media needs to work for the follow up of just cases along with news.

State must take the initiative to regularize the content on social media as it is already done for blasphemous content, let it be towards this particular subject as well which is more sensitive and important for the future generations, for the sustainability of some moral values in society. Last but not the least research based solutions must be looked into as well by to find out the core reasons for such incidents as the culprits are usually going through terrible psychological disorders.

The writer has experience in the field of education and is currently working as a resource person in the development sector

Published in Daily Times, January 17th 2018.