Victim-blaming, slut-shaming, parent-blaming, inappropriate memes – is this your way to demand #JusticeForZainab, Pakistan?

Published: January 11, 2018
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Most people reacted with empathy and compassion but it didn’t take long before the ugly side of social media reared its head. ILLUSTRATION: HEF CLOTHING

A tragedy has paralysed the nation once again, this time in the form of Zainab, yet another innocent child that we lost too soon. Emotions are high, and rightly so, as people demand #JusticeForZainab, and ask the government and the law authorities to ensure accountability, and for once do their job and deliver justice to the family and to the rest of the nation.

Hopelessness and despair prevail at the moment, along with a certain sense of despondency at the state of the country we live in, especially in light of how we continuously fail to protect our greatest asset – our children.

As #JusticeForZainab trended on Twitter, which is originally where the news broke, there was a mixed bag of reactions. Most people reacted with empathy and compassion, showing disgust and horror at the crime itself and demanding justice for the victim. It didn’t take long, however, before the ugly side of social media reared its head.

Here is just some of the most problematic content we’ve come across on social media (thus far).

1. Some felt the need of the hour was to question and blame the parents who had just lost their child

Rana Sanaullah, too, was one such individual who despite being in a position of power resorted to questioning and blaming the parents of the victims. We have not forgotten that Sanaullah’s response to the Kasur child pornography case of 2015 was to call it a land grabbing battle.

There is no question that a child is ultimately the responsibility of the parents. However, it is also the responsibility of the state to ensure that we create a society where children are free to walk about in broad daylight, without the fear of being abducted, raped and murdered. It is also the responsibility of the state to do its job and find a child when she is reported missing. When they fail to do that and her body is found in the garbage dump, the very least the state can do, quite literally, is find her killer and bring her to justice.

To simply blame the parents, who are the ones that have lost their child in this case, is not only insensitive but also very representative of the kind of state we live in. A man can kidnap, rape and murder a child, because what else is he to do, if he sees a child walking alone? Is this where we are at as a society, that we will quickly blame the victims instead of questioning where we went wrong to begin with, by providing a safe space for monsters instead of our children?

2. Then there were those that resorted to some “good old” victim blaming

It is simply unfathomable how this is something one can bring up in a conversation of child sexual abuse. How can a child be blamed for something like this? If a man is so weak and vile that he can be attracted to a child, then that man needs to be removed from this society as soon as possible. When a tumor turns cancerous, you take it out. Living with it and blaming everything else does not get rid of the problem.

What such faulty logic ends up ignoring is the high stats of male rape in the country. Child sexual abuse does not discriminate between male and female children, the girls are just more likely to report or be taken seriously. The men who have a disease in their heart may not make advances towards women who are covered, but then where does that leave our boys?

Please let us know, what could the child have worn, said or done for this man’s actions to be justified? How can a little child be sexually appealing to anyone, leading them to do what that monster did to Zainab? If this is just how some men are, the problem lies with the disgusting and perverted maniac who is capable of such behaviour, and no amount of anyone covering themselves is the solution.

3. Slut-shaming other women was to follow…

Rape is a horrific crime; to wish it upon anyone should be a crime of its own. Should Maryam Nawaz, along with her party, be criticised for what is repeated failure to do anything about a snake as it roams around freely, leaving victims in its wake? Absolutely. But should we wish for cruelty and horrific crimes to happen to another person in exchange? Just asking that question alone has led to humanity dying just a little more.

4. Let’s blame feminists for standing up for women! Serves them right for trying to highlight issues!

Whenever there is a case of a woman or a girl being assaulted, social media fills up with people taking every opportunity they can to throw shade on feminism. Feminists constantly talk about how women are being raped, abused, and killed in this country. If anything, this case yet again proves their point, that anyone not at the top of the hierarchy of power, which includes women, children, and those belonging to the LGBTQ community, are unsafe in this country. But of course, when a child is brutally raped and murdered, the appropriate response is to challenge the very people who will remember this incident for years to come as they live in an unsafe country where what happened to Zainab is not an anomaly, but the norm.

Feminists remember when crimes against women are committed; we remember when Qandeel Baloch was murdered and slut-shamed in that order; we remember when the girl was made to walk naked in DI Khan; and we will remember Zainab, long after people have latched on to whatever they can use next to display their ignorance and their hatred of women.

5. Women need men to protect them from… men?

One always comes across tweets that instead of addressing the problem, try to distinguish themselves from it. Whenever there is a woman accusing a man of harassing her, #NotAllMen is seen everywhere with tweets on how they themselves treat women with respect. The denial of the fact that men are not rapists is incredibly naïve, especially when accompanied by the implication that “real men” don’t rape women, they protect them.

We are sorry to burst your bubble, but a great majority of assaulters are men. Just because you choose to look away from them and define your own definition of men does not change the fact that they do, in fact, rape, harass, assault and murder women and children. Zainab’s perpetrator was also a man. All the 12 kids in Kasur were tortured and killed by a man. If men are supposed to protect us, then why are these men also responsible for killing their own daughter, sisters, wives and mothers in the name of honour? When men commit crimes, instead of outright trying to provide weak justification, perhaps it would be better if people tried to identify the problem and actually create the “real men” who are thus far like a mythical creature that we have heard a lot about, but never actually seen.

6. Some brought up the concept of “mehram”, despite the victim being a seven-year-old child

Let us bring in the religion card. A card that we don’t need here but let’s just bring it in, for the sake of it, because every conversation/argument in our country has to include the religious aspect.

How does a mehram minimise the chances of these cases happening when most of the time it is the mehram who commits the crime? According to RAINN, 80% of the perpetrators in the US were parents. According to NSPCC, 90% of sexually abused children in the UK were abused by someone they knew (this includes their mehrams). In Pakistan, where stats are harder to find as crimes are harder to report, this isn’t alien either. A 13-year-old girl was raped repeatedly by her own father; in another case, the father was found to have tortured and raped his daughter; while a cop was recently convicted for raping his own daughter. There are also so many women in this country who go through marital rape all their lives but cannot speak out because of this society. Qandeel was killed by her own brother, her mehram, in the name of honour.

Being someone’s mehram does not stop these sexual predators. They feed off of anyone they can, without grief and without a second thought. Stop shaming women to abide by your standards of religion to remain safe in this country. Instead, maybe speak out about the atrocities they face and call for justice to be served so that they aren’t bound by any religion in order to be protected.

7. Then there are those who want justice for all victims

There are innumerable cases of rape and abuse that are reported, then why are such individuals actively silent then, but only wake up when one case is pursued? When a crime is committed and reported, you seek justice for that victim and crime before trying to seek justice for all victims of the same crime. This is not to suggest that other victims should be ignored or overlooked, but if #JusticeForZainab became #JusticeForAllRapeVictims, then no rape victim out there would ever get any form of justice. Zainab’s case and demanding justice for her should be taken as what it is – a first step towards seeking justice for those who have been wronged by failing institutions.

8. “Have a little sense of humour, Pakistan”: A child was raped and murdered, what is there not to laugh about?

If this wasn’t enough, a Facebook group started sharing memes about the victim. We could only put up this one screenshot; the other memes were too revolting to be shared. Terming it as dark humour, these people think it is acceptable to make jokes about this. What can we, though, expect from a society that finds no harm in rape jokes? When we can use such a heinous crime to insult our friends jokingly, why would we think these people would not jump at the chance of trying to make viral jokes and memes, even if it is over a child’s dead body?

If this is the context of humour that makes the people of this country laugh, then why are we still wasting our breath on these people by asking for justice?

It isn’t about feminists, it isn’t about the parents, it isn’t about men, this is about a child who was wronged by this society. Instead of pointing our fingers any which way we can, we should point it at the murderer and the government that has protected him for so long. It is about time that this country wakes up and voices their outrage – it is the least we can do for her and for every child that had to face such atrocities. No punishment can be painful enough as nothing can bring her back, yet that shouldn’t hinder the process of justice and accountability.

A country’s judicial system that boasts of disqualifying a corrupt prime minister and punishing powerful men, will it be able to do right by this girl? Or will #JusticeForZainab slowly fade into oblivion until another little dead body is found?

Let this movement be much more than just a hashtag on Twitter, let this be a revolution for change, for justice and for safety so that we may finally have a day where we don’t have to demand justice for dead children anymore.

Blogs Desk

Blogs Desk

The Express Tribune Blogs desk.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • powinda

    Unacceptable.Unforgivable. That facebook group that is sharing memes and using a girls rape and murder to make sick retarded jokes needs to be arrested and punished for insulting the memory of Zainab and all those innocents who have perished at the hands of vile criminals.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Brilliant ….strong stuff.
    In my view two main factors contribute to such heinous crimes. The politicization of the police and collapse of the criminal judicial system. Others factors such as an absence of creating an awareness through education, the factor of local politics involving extremist religious parties and also the passivity of society ( especially the upper class ) are responsible.Recommend

  • Zohaib

    This guy Danial Ali is so unbelievably depraved, sick, and disgusting to the core… just can’t believe somebody could be so messed up in the mindRecommend

  • Zohaib

    And no need to mention this filth dankstudio needs to be burnt down immediately… somebody please report it as inappropriate on Facebook so they take this disgusting page offRecommend

  • Hasan

    Sad to read such depraved comments from my fellow country-men. It clearly shows what closed and sick minds exist in current Pakistan Society. Sad and shameful.Recommend

  • Salman Raheel

    Actually a child’s best protection comes from parents. Will you bet on police to recover your child or would you be keeping them out of harms way by reserving a close eye on them till they are wise enough to face the world? In most abduction cases the minors are found to be wondering alone. Zainab isn’t amongst us anymore, but people must learn from such unfateful incidents to avoid similar circumstances. So yeah, the responsibility for protecting a child is heaviest on the parents and there’s nothing wrong in saying that.Recommend