A few days ago I was watching the movie “Highway” (from across the border, at that!), on a friend’s recommendation. The movie, in my opinion, is a masterpiece on child abuse and if you are interested in finding out about this subject I suggest you watch it then sooner rather than later. The movie shows how a girl suffers during her childhood at the hands of her uncle, only because the mother was a coward, who is more concerned about their reputation than her daughter’s life. By the end of the movie through vagaries of fate, gain the confidence to give hell to her parents and the ‘uncle’ and leaves the house.

So far so good as the movie goes, however it left me with the lingering thought that leaving the house in such cases should have been an option in real life also. There are many girls and boys who have gone through this trauma and have had no one to talk to, and if by chance they did manage to talk to someone, they were either ‘used’ by those whom they talked to, or were laughed at – or, even worse, were asked to move on as it was something in the past.

No! That is where everyone is wrong. Nothing is “the past”. There is always one thing or the other that continues to haunt the victim. It may be a fragrance, a dress, a color, a tone of voice, a word spoken, an appearance, or even facial hair or hair color or style of combing.

At times, not only the perpetrator but in many cases meeting their family, too, can be a trauma. People always have an excuse for them, a reason to pardon them or to show that it was not their fault but the victim somehow or the other is to be blamed.

This as an issue is not particular to any country, it happens in every nook and corner of the world. But when it comes to Asia, and especially South Asia we find that here, people’s hormones are always going wild. Majority of the people do not think with their brains but let their primeval urges take over their conduct and thus end up destroying lives. Even though I don’t want to bring religion into it, but many Muslims appear to be at the lower rung of morality.

I know that from here onwards the comments will be filled with “hate speech” bells ringing with abuses and admonitions as uncles, preachers, and men with a beard are targeted here, but that will not change the reality – a reality that even the defenders of faith know in their heart of hearts to be true!

I have friends in Pakistan and many who now live abroad vividly recalling from their childhood days how the “qari sahib” made passes at them, touched them inappropriately every change they got. If nothing else, they tried to touch the children’s feet with their own. Drivers, cooks, other male household help did this with the girls. And it does not stop there, the maids attempt this and more with the young boys at every opportunity! Any woman would vouch for the fact that they even experience men bumping into them during Tawaf e Kaabah in Mecca. The less that is said about the shurtas (religious police) of Mecca and Medina, the better.

I don’t have to talk more about our land of the pure, as the recent Kasur scandal has shaken society to its very core. We sounds so hypocritical when we proudly ask every 14th of August: “Pakistan ka matlab kia?” The answer is easier to announce, harder to follow. I just wish this state had nothing to do with religion then, we may have had the guts to hang all those who practice such activities in the disguise of religion.

These things can only be stopped when strict actions are taken against people who indulge in such acts; which may even mean hanging such people in the main crossroads of the city – like executions in Saudi Arabia – even at the risk of being called barbarians. Parents who do not take any action but hush up their children if they do speak to them in the name of “izzat,” should also be punished, maybe by a jail sentence, or at the minimum by taking the children away from them and putting them in foster care with trauma and guilt removal counselling, and accepting at the national level that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a fact and needs to be addressed and treated, before the children may be returned to their home, if at all.

Extra-curricular activities in schools, both rural and urban, should include inappropriate touching and gestures awareness programs starting from grade six or ten years of age which is the most vulnerable age for such behaviors to happen. Parents/teachers/scholars who raise their voice against such programs should be admonished, counselled and even removed from their positions. If they do not desist they may be fined heavily, or, as a last resort, banished from the community. Involving the local preachers, religious personalities, and area notables in these activates as is being done in the case of Polio eradication, dengue etc., is also important. NGOs also need to start acting responsibly and making proper use of the grants they get instead of picking and choosing topics for their own popularity and “filling the files.”

The Kasur kids will soon be – if not already – forgotten, because this is an issue that does not bother anyone. If it did, we would not have had houses of ill repute in our midst. This issue will soon be hushed up as it is a matter of “izzat”: of the family, the community, the village and, eventually, of the country!

The other day I participated in a protest meeting against the Kasur incident. A majority of the men there were more interested in ogling the females present than in what the speakers were saying. I know many readers will blame the girls for being there and dressing inappropriately (as if all their mothers wear abayas and niqab), and this will continue as long as we keep brushing such matters under the carpet and not talking about this issue as an issue to be addressed at multiple levels of society.

The perpetual excuse of not talking about it are that it will give kids the wrong ideas, that kids are not old enough to know, and that they will go through a revival of the trauma – as if to say that the trauma will ever leave them.

But then we forget that the kids have already gone through what they are not to be told, they have already experienced what they are too young to know, and the trauma is revived every step they walk on the streets and in the rooms of the houses where they were abused – so what are we trying to keep them away from?