We continue to turn a deaf ear on the public outcry and reported incidents of rape and other sexual abuse that has entered the phase of getting normalized and overshadowed by newer breaking news. This is one of those times where “it’s never too late” is not applicable. The situation now demands we also work to find out the root causes and come up with durable and actionable roadmaps.

Stunted evolution of education systems have not only failed to scale with the population size, but also failed to function at the basic level. This is the most basic problem here. No steps were taken by the education ministry to revive existing dysfunctional schools and enforce enrollment of children with an additional back-to-school program for children past the optimum enrollment age.

Lack of professional psychological help for troubled individuals is also a root cause. A lack of residential community group or platform where neighbourhood-watch could be implemented are solutions. Ventures like this have been implemented in the West and it lightens the burden of policing and patrolling especially in a country with over 220 million people.

PEMRA has failed its job of regulating print, electronic, and mainstream media because it continues to showcase obscenities: content that objectifies women, promotes nudity, vulgarity, and feeds the demonic mindset of the uncultured man on the street.

Religious clerics / leadership have failed to earn the public trust by not voicing the correct response to incidents. Disregarding Islamic principles for policymaking has just shown the complete lack of competence and resolve that the public expects from their presence in positions of power.

Policing as an institution has severed the largest blow because of a track record of lack of accountability for criminals. Sure, one can point out lapses on the victim’s part in every crime: if it’s a house break-in, they should have hired a private guard or installed CCTVs. If it’s a motorway rape incident, they could have used the highway, or driven a more reliable vehicle. Coming from the police, it is an irreparable breach of trust yet we see politicians on the defensive front. When we start bouncing off blame and dodging from responsibility, no shortcut-fixes, or short-term actions will be useful. This calls for escalation and ruthless cleansing of the system.

What needs to stop is sexual harassment. That’s what graduates into violent crimes and abuse. According to the order of magnitude, more incidents go unreported because of the nature of this crime. Nothing has been done to install a safe state-owned reporting system that assures victim confidentiality. Instead of a half-hearted apology and shameless political point-scoring of closing in on the criminals of one incident, nothing in years has been clearly laid out to define what qualifies as sexual harassment, and how its misuse can be minimised. . There is no quick fix to this and the only way forward in my opinion, is to keep this issue highly visible, and remove all hurdles in the way of maintaining a track record of sound management of the reported cases with tangible outcomes that can be useful not only for individual incidents but also bring us closer to deterring the criminals in the first place.

MUHAMMAD SALAHUDDIN KHAN,

Islamabad.