A trial court in Rawalpindi has awarded the death sentence to Sohail Ayaz. The death penalty to the sexual predator is a small victory for the judiciary and society in general. The court of the Additional District and Sessions Judge Jehangir Ali Gondal deserves credit for not delaying the hearings and issuing a swift and appropriate judgement. However, it is also an unfortunate reality that the rot still runs too deep. Just today, police officials recovered the burnt body of a seven-year-old girl from a graveyard; she went missing two days ago.

The frequency with which our children experience sexual abuse indicates that we have a long way to go before succeeding in eradicating this menace. According to a recent report, “Cruel Number” published by Sahil, an NGO that works for child protection, on average, more than six children were abused daily in the first half of 2020. It is unfortunate noting that the tall claims that the government and authorities made after the heinous incident of Zainab are meaningless, and we are unable to put a stop to the sexual abuse of children. The report showed almost no positive change in numbers since 2018 and speaks volumes about the fault in our strategy to protect our children.

Before anything else, we must admit that there is no simple way forward to curb this menace. The solution needs to be a holistic one. First, the state must come up with legislation without loopholes. Strict laws enforced by better policing and more cops having sensitivity training about the menace will help in decreasing the occurrence of such mishaps. Second, there is an urgent need for initiating a public dialogue about the issue. Third, the national curriculum needs to be redesigned to educate children about the issue and its various forms. This way, the society and state by pointing out the faultlines and working together, can fix the problem of child abuse.