Zainab was raped and murdered. I wonder what was going through her mind in those last moments. What was her impression of the world and human kind as a whole? Whatever she imagined, it is surely a reflection of our society! It should be a mirror through which we reflect on our collective selves. These forms of sexual, physical and emotional violence have become endemic in our society, specifically towards people who are weak and vulnerable, like children. Children are unable to adequately make a case for systemic violence and abuse against themselves, nor can they institute laws since they are not represented anywhere in decision making bodies, or bodies that implement or interpret the law. They are a large segment of the society that is still being moulded into future adults and citizens of our polity In our society adults can act with impunity, inside the home and outside, because of which systemic violence has become normalised against the weaker and voiceless sections of the society. Child abuse, whether it is in the form of child labour, child sexual abuse, physical torture, emotional, and psychological abuse seems to be an everyday facet of life. The focus on child sexual abuse and how we perceive it as act against humanity, compared to the large number of such horrific cases taking place day after day reveals the actual truth about our society’s relationship with “sex”. Even though it is a completely normal human interaction, it has been made into a deeply taboo and reviled subject in the country, which only leads to repression and shame around issues of sex, sexual desire and romantic love. This, in turn, leads to acts of perversion and violence, as the repressed take out their frustrations on the weak and the oppressed. If we make sex a taboo subject, then children will not only have a hard time identifying cases of abuse; they will also be reluctant to discuss any such issues with their parents or any adult. We need to reflect deeply on ourselves, our thinking and our behaviour as Pakistani citizens. On one end we propagate an overzealous and pretentious piety and flare up as a nation every time a case like this comes to light. However the countless other voices that stay silent in the face of sexual abuse, have nowhere left to turn, for we can’t forget the plight of women in our society either, who have been treated even worse yet have continued to be silenced by greedy and depraved men. We have created a society in which we place the utmost importance in suppressing regular human interactions, and the natural temptations that human beings feel every day. However, what we are really doing is robbing them of the chance to learn how these temptations need to be handled and how to approach these interactions with love and respect, specifically within the space of intimate relationships between men and women. The focus on child sexual abuse and how we perceive it as act against humanity, compared to the large number of such horrific cases taking place day after day reveals the actual truth about our society’s relationship with “sex” Since we tend to over sexualise the opposite sex, it eventually leads to their objectification, which is the root of the sexual abuse problem in the country. If you start thinking of a child or a woman as an object, then you will end up treating them like one; using them with no regard for their feelings and humanity. Our news is inundated with cases similar to that of Zainab but not much is done to solve them. It was only after Zainab’s ordeal caught the public’s attention, that the police were pressurised in to doing their jobs and finally apprehending the suspect. Recent surveys suggest that child abuse is rampant in madaris in Pakistan. Children are sent to these institutions with the complete faith that they will be given a comprehensive study of their religion, however even in these places cases of systemic abuse by teachers are rampant. The scale of this problem is massive and it stems from the family of the victims themselves. In many cases the abuser is someone known to the victim in some capacity, and it is up to their families to keep an eye on any suspicious behaviour exhibited by the abuser or the victim. In some cases, the state may get involved as well, especially if the abuse is being perpetrated by one or both the parents. In these cases it is up to the state to decide how to proceed and finally help the victim achieve some semblance of justice. The writer is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Policy, ITU, and a PhD Candidate at Arizona State University. She can be firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, June 12th 2018.