As Afia Nathaniel’s film about the struggle of a woman to save her 10-year-old daughter from a child marriage receives international acclaim, little daughters near home are facing the same fate, without anyone trying to save them. Eight-year-old Fakhra Bibi was forced into marriage to a 35-year old man on Sunday, and this was his second attempt after his first was foiled by the media. The child was sold by her father, for Rs 200,000 in Toba Tek Singh; that is the going price, it seems, for the freedom of a girl child.

Malala Yousafzai is constantly shamed in the press for promoting a horrible image of Pakistan abroad. But we have indulged in enough horror to give ourselves that reputation. So much so that we wish to shoot children if we don’t like what they say. When art imitates life, whether in the form of documentaries like Sharmeen Obaid Chinoys’ Saving Face, Naqvi and Doran’s Pakistan’s Hidden Shame, or feature films like Nathanial’s Dukhtar, it is time to open our eyes. The things that go on in the privacy of our homes to children and women range from shameful to disgusting. As a society, we have become deplorably efficient at justifying sexual violence. On an 8-year-old girl, a nikkah contract does not make the abuse acceptable. In March this year, the Council of Islamic Ideology, Pakistan’s top constitutional body responsible for legal advice on Islamic issues announced that underage marriage was legal, but consummation of marriage (Rukhsati) was allowed only when the couple had crossed puberty. While consummation has been disallowed, who is to keep a check on this? And even with the caveat of puberty, the age of puberty is between 9 and 15 in girls and 12 and 15 in boys according to most Islamic scholars.

There is no excuse today for underage marriage; societal norms have changed. What was normal 700 years ago is not normal today. We need to accept that advocating the end of marital rape, the freedom of a woman, the end of child marriage, and the end of polygamy are not “western” values. They are about the protection of children, about the health of women, about the sanctity of a human life and the right to free will… all values that can be found in Islam.