Larkana rape happened in a culture of impunity

The average age of a class four child is 10, right when there can be an early onset of puberty. In Larkana, a girl child who was repeatedly raped by her male teacher got her pregnant.

These are the facts of the case. Other details can be inferred. That the rape over many months led to extreme physical pain to the child, that psychologically the girl felt subdued enough to not report it at school because there was no vigilance, that she felt traumatized enough to hide her sickness and grief for over 90 days from even her nearest and dearest.

The girl child, in countries like ours are not taught to be brave, only the boys are. Unwanted sexual advances can only be thwarted if the girl child has guts. This would mean that the social conditioning of the child would be to jump off monkey bars, run sprints or attempt seventh grade math problems at grade four. That is all reserved for boys. Girls conversely are gauged on how politely they nod.

No surprise then that in our pervasive rape culture even grown up women find themselves in uncharted territory when dealing with a man abusing his positional power.

What makes things even worse is our response to such a national catastrophe. No chief minister visited the aggrieved family despite the family trying to reach him. The perpetrator gets let off with a slap on the wrist. The community blames the victim and the family for not protecting the honor of the girl. As if honor was some kind of ticket stub or super glue bottle.

The problem is also our terminology when the rape of a minor happens. We shy away from calling it a crime, we call it perversion, which culturally there is widespread acceptance of under the boys-will-be-boys code.

There is all the emphasis in the world of girls being hidden with absolutely no emphasis on laws protecting them from harm. Our schools are supposed to be sanctuaries for the already dropping rates of girl children out-of-school. They are supposed to be places where girls can nurse their tired bodies overworked though housework and enrich their minds with possibilities of a bigger world and brighter cities. Instead they are breeding grounds for abuse and oppression.

What happened in Larkana should not stay in Larkana. We must stop shaming the victims and consequently shame the perpetrator. By coming forward the family of the girl have done just that, but if the case is mismanaged, as it seems it is – the family is under pressure to take the accusation back – then much will be lost. Not just the fact that Larkana will be bloodied and scarred but that a little child will grow up to know that her state failed her.

As did the council of Islamic Ideology, which should be renamed to the council of Misogynist Ideology for declaring child marriages as kosher. As did the society itself where child marriages and teenage pregnancies occur as often as other pregnancies.

The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey for 2006-07, find that over 50 percent of women were married before they turned 18. Most international (read: human) conventions consider individuals under 18 as children. The reason under 18 girls are children is not because these years are too little to teach girls about empowerment but also because practically and physically their hip bones cannot squeeze out a child. Nature abhors children giving birth to children.

Underage marriages are just as crass as dogfights. You sit in the audience as a bloodied show is put on. Except girls suffer silently as per the manual of the literature and oral tradition stories they are fed, where girls revere women who suffer and idealize women who suffer indefinitely.

The perpetrator of the Larkana rape will go free in all likelihood because the law is read and implemented by men. We need more women in police and we need more women in the judiciary. We are an unfortunate nation for having men in power position that are more inclined to protect men rather than punish them for their crimes.

Till then this child’s ordeal is one that will haunt this country.

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