Its murky business when a country where marital rape has barely become punishable tries to prosecute rape generally – because the concept of consent is practically non-existent. Where would one begin to explain it to men that if someone doesn’t want a cup of tea it’s never ok to pour it down their throat with a funnel? This is where brides are often not asked who they will be wed to and husbands don’t ask at all for anything, ever. But these problems are inherently solvable there is therapy for the victims; there is divorce and women can escape either by mental breakdowns or physical distance.
For some there is only death.
I worry that everyone overprotects little girls too much in this honour-crazed society, without letting them in public spaces and they are subjected to generous over-clipping of their childhood exuberance. Even with this overcast guardedness, things in Sachal Goth, Karachi, went very badly for a little seven-year-old who went missing from her home in Abdullah Shah Ghazi Goth. Seven can be counted on one’s hands. It’s too little and too vulnerably finite. It’s a world of rag dolls, fairies that heal little knee cuts and the feel of ice-cream in your brain.
The underlying story is familiar enough: raped, sodomized, strangled and left for the dead behind the bushes. These crimes have a very short window of time to nail the perpetrators, but there has to be a will. Suspects? What suspects?
The ghastly lack of convictions that mar the numerous cases of minor rapes is so acceptable that has ceased to be shocking. Our consciousness can get stirred for a poached lion in Zimbabwe, a persecuted DJ for a sinking political party but it fails to play out the brutality, probably tiny little infinities of pain and anguish for a young girl. Outrage? What outrage? We have to ration our voices for the wedding season or some stolen ego trip.
Rape cases are difficult to prove, grated. The difficulty however is not just forensic, it is the slightly more extreme form of acceptability of the “boys will be boys” theorem. People don’t come forward because they fear the social equity repercussions or the punishment the legal systems place on the one aiding justice. In small towns like Sachal Goth the perpetrators are usually very popular or protected or both; the alleged perpetrators, the witnesses, and the law enforcement authorities all seem to know each other well. Resultantly, the more vulnerable get the least amount of moral support. No Chief Minister visits; no kitty-party with placards on the streets in warm July; no NGO-aunties shouting slogans; not even arm-chair Jihad on Twitter and certainly not the whole shebang of a media that pushes for more accountability from law-enforcement at prime time.
How far could the media go to fight for her rights where on one hand, they sensationalize the putrid horror of the rape and on the other, seep in advertising revenues between programing that promote the most helpless damsel as the most desirable? It has its own axe to grind segmenting society into neat zombie-strata. We have created generations upon generations of a sexually repressed, spiritually deprived, deeply hostile men who have waged war on women. Little girls are just the easier ones to punish.
There was the a one-and-a-half-year-old girl was raped before being strangled to death in Karachi earlier this year and then last year the Hazara girl murdered in Quetta after attempted rape who was only six. Under a shroud of victim-blaming; shame and lack of redemption for the family, chances are there are far too many muffled screams and trembling little bodies. Probably hundreds of minor-rapes go unreported.
So much of the rape culture we cultivate our adolescent young men’s minds in, have to do with naming the demon. Shaming the demon, ditto. Not enough people bring it out in the open. Morning TV shows, political programing and the religion on steroids Urdu press don’t want to acknowledge that there is something inherently broken in Pakistani society. That as it struggles to reconcile modern women’s rights with their tribal ownership of womenfolk, it is asphyxiating. Something drastically needs to change.
I don’t know if there are any quick fixes. More culture and art perhaps to let men feel more and denounce less perhaps. More deterrence to violate a girl child’s dignity and less tolerance for those who don’t catch the perpetrators, maybe.
All I know is that some mother in Abdullah Shah Ghazi Goth has some clothes hanging in a dusty cupboard for a little seven-year-old little princess that will not be worn again. That, should not be a minor problem.