A seven-year-old girl from Nowshera was raped by a 65-year-old man, a story broken just a day after BBC reported the horrifying story of a gang-rape victim who was filmed during the crime. So here we are, a society so obsessed with religion and purity, but with children lying at death’s door. No school, mosque or madressah educates against child sexual abuse, discusses self-defense or gives out any advice or sex education. The most unsafe are the streets as portrayed by a documentary released last year focusing on the street children of Peshawar where 9 out of 10 children are victims of paedophilia.

In 2010, the Federal Shariat Court declared that the provisions of the Women’s Protection Act of 2006, which prevented rape victims from being prosecuted for adultery or fornication under the Zina and Hudood Act of 1979, were unconstitutional. Parliament tried to pass new provisions but it never did. Thus if a rape report is filed and the requisite four adult male witnesses are not provided, the complaint can still be converted to one under the Zina and Hudood Ordinance. According to recent figures released by Punjab Police, about 1,651 rape cases were registered in Punjab alone in the first half of 2014, with challans issued for 990, which led to zero convictions. However, last week, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill of 2014. An insertion in the Qanoon-i-Shahadat law says that if the question of consent comes up and the victim claims that she did not consent, “the court shall presume that she did not consent”. Additionally, Article 151, clause 4 of the same legislation currently reads: “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.” The new bill requires that this clause be omitted. This is a much needed amendment, if only it can get passed through the Senate and the National Assembly that contains many a patriarchal old man willing to look the other way and eliminate all public space for women.

Law and law enforcement does not help. Therefore media and civil society must. This crime is perpetuated only by men, whether it is rape or paedophilia. In most cases girls are taught to hide away, and then like in the case of Peshawar, the victims become young boys who are poor and homeless. It has been the public dominance of men that has only made matters worse. The crime does not stop, it only changes victims. What is needed is clear and swift punishment for the perpetrator. We are quick to hang suspected terrorists for killing our children with no concern for human rights or due process of law, but we sit mulling over law and amendments when it comes to the rape and abuse of our children on a daily basis.