A society that cannot, or indeed will not, protect the weakest among us is one that is rotten to the core. According to some reports, in six months (January to June 2013) there were 1,204 cases of child abuse in Pakistan – with 68 percent of the victims being girls and 32 percent boys. A spate of recent cases of child rape has brought the issue to the spotlight and what it says about us a country is very frightening indeed. Earlier this month, a five-year-old girl who had been raped was found outside a hospital in Lahore. So far more than two dozen people, mostly her neighbours, have been arrested, and CCTV footage of the likely rapist released but he still remains at large. Just in September alone, five-year-old and six-year-old girls have been raped in Kasur and Gujranwala, respectively while a minor boy was raped in Faisalabad. Then, just on Thursday, the body of a minor girl who had been raped was found at Seaview in Karachi. As an indication of just how seriously the state takes such cases, in none of these cases have the culprits been tracked down. And even if they were, there is every possibility that they would get off scot-free. In the latest case (in Karachi) the victim’s family have informed the media that their daughter had been abducted two days prior to her body being found and that ransom demands had also come in. This case ties in with the larger issue of law and order in the city. Recently, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), which decides if all our laws are in line with Islam, said that DNA evidence could not be used as primary evidence in rape cases since religion had set forth the requirement that four reliable male witnesses were needed to convict someone of rape. The CII has chosen dogma over logic, even though Islam instructs us to use reasoning. Rapists are hardly likely to ever be convicted if witnesses are needed while science has progressed sufficiently for DNA evidence to prove guilt or innocence in many cases.
Doing a better job in catching the perpetrators of sex crimes is only one essential duty; we also need to be far more sensitive with rape survivors. After the minor girl in Lahore was found, many news channels saw no harm in repeating her name on air even though international standards of media ethics demand that rape survivors not be named unless consent is given by the survivor. Identifying a minor was doubly horrifying. These cases of child rape should also shame into silence those who ludicrously blame victims for the crime, blaming it on the dress or actions of the victim. Or are these people now going to claim that toddlers somehow provoke rapists into targeting them? By now we should have learned that rape is about power not sex but there are too many who are just not able to empathise with the victim. Unfortunately, a state that has never treated rape as the horrific crime that it truly is belongs among that shameless crowd.