Another child has been gang-raped and murdered. This time in Indian-held Kashmir. She was just nine years old and her name was Muskaan. That a woman was reportedly the mastermind of this gravest of crimes sent has sent shockwaves across both sides of the Indo-Pak border. The child’s stepmother was the first wife. She had a son; described in the Indian media as Muskaan’s step-brother. Though if they shared the same paternal DNA — he would have been her half-brother. Be that as it may, it is perhaps sufficient to know that the boy’s mother arranged for he and his friends to take it in turns to rape the nine-year-old. She then strangled Muskaan. Her son reportedly used an axe to hack her to death. And if that were not enough, the other two accomplices gouged out her eyes and poured acid over her body in a bid to destroy ‘evidence’. Such offences are unfortunately not uncommon in the world’s largest democracy. Indeed, according to the India-based group Child Rights — crimes against the child have shot up by more than 500 percent during the last decade. And in such cases, the girl child is naturally at more risk. It is a similar story over here in the Islamic Republic. Thus such atrocities cannot be explained away as being linked to the generalised, and at times misplaced, perceptions of imported westernised ‘values. Similarly, notions of prevailing Muslim conservatism do not cut it. So, what then is the common denominating factor? Patriarchy, in a word. From a first-wife who feels that her only path towards familial or societal agency lies in the cold-blooded murder and rape of a child. To the men who think women, even little girls, are theirs for the taking; of no consequence and entirely disposable. Thus it may be prudent to make feminism a core and mandatory subject in schools throughout the region; from primary right through to the secondary level. For both boys and girls. Because introducing the death penalty for the rape of minors has failed time and again to deter. In fact, it has given rise to murder and mutilation. This is something to which both India and Pakistan can bear testament. Sadly. In short, the hangman’s gallows will never teach rapists and murderers that women and girls are sentient beings. But feminism can. If it is given a chance. * Published in Daily Times, September 8th 2018.