Heart of darkness — Child victims and the media
With the approaching one year anniversary of the Army Public School massacre, we are sure to see on our TV screens, reporters shoving microphones in the faces of the victims’ families. The same inane question, “Aap ko kehsa mehsoos ho raha hai” will be flung from one bulletin to the next.
For those of us who work in the media this has now become standard practice. Private moments on air, for all to see; crying parents, siblings being asked about what their brothers would have done had they been alive.
And, while I expect the media coverage to be regrettably crass, I am grateful that at least no has forgotten. Losing 144 of Pakistan’s future in one of the most deadly attacks ever is not something to be brushed aside.
But what about the other children?
The Kasur incident is single-handedly the biggest scandal of child sex abuse to have rocked Pakistan where over 208 children were forced to perform sexual acts that were videotaped.
Soon after the news came out, an abandoned ‘haveli’ was found to have evidence that ropes and other ghastly objects were used to hang children from its roof as they were filmed.
Over 208 of Pakistan’s future which is still alive and breathing seem to have been all but forgotten.
Why has so little been done to bring the perpetrators of Kasur to justice?
Have we been speaking about how, if at all, they are dealing with the trauma that comes with sexual abuse?
Do stories of sexually abused children not even warrant a follow-up?
Sexual abuse not only leaves people scarred for life, it takes away the very essence of pleasure. This feeling can lead to the victim adopting several kinds of destructive ways of life and in extreme cases, the abused can also become abusers.
The victims of the Kasur tragedy need love and they deserve justice. But it looks like we are refusing to give them either.
Shoving microphones into their faces and asking how they feel isn’t going to take us anywhere. It comes down to lawmakers and leaders to ensure that all the children of this country are protected.
The website of Sahil — an organisation that works to ensure child safety from all forms of violence — has a poll that asks visitors if they have suffered any kind of sexual abuse.
The results show a whopping 79.56 per cent have voted yes to being sexually abused or harassed in one or more of the following ways; voyeurism, exhibitionism, fondling, sodomy/rape, kissing, pornography, sexual comments or oral sex. Furthermore, according to Sahil.org’s findings, one out of every 10 children in Pakistan has been a victim of sexual abuse.
Take a moment here to let that sink in.
Hundreds of children suffer sexual abuse in Pakistan every single day. For instance, the case of attempted sodomy in which a young boy jumped out of the window to avoid being raped, or the fake confession by a muezzin of the murder of a six-year-old boy in a seminary.
Did the media follow up on why the fake confession was made at the press conference in the presence of the police and TV reporters in the first place?
Amir Liaquat’s laughter still rings in my ears when a female caller asked in his programme for advice on a scenario that involved her being sexually abused. This is how pretty much all of us, the media and the citizens, have dealt with Pakistan’s most heinous of offences.
No one really cares or even tries to understand the lives of the victims of sexual abuse or how one incident can alter the course of someone’s entire life.
There are countless reports of kidnappings and forced conversions of minor girls from religious minority communities. But it seems none of these offences are ‘good enough’ for the media to highlight for justice.
On the 2nd of October this year, an 11-year-old Hindu girl was kidnapped in Nawabshah — an FIR was filed a whole two days later. The girl remains missing, and is said have to been forced to marry the person who abducted her.
In Sanghar, on the 8th of July, a 15-year-old Hindu girl was kidnapped and forced to convert. Her family is still waiting to hear if she is safe.
But, it seems that these stories will not get the media attention they should because they do not bring in the ratings.
After all, what chance does the plight of a few poor people stand against a celebrity divorce when it comes to what passes for headlines in this country?
The more I look at the Pakistani media and how it works nowadays, the more it seems that they follow a routine recipe to assess and use a news story: ratings ka namak, sales ki daarchini, reporter ke contact ka masala, NLE ka shashka garnish and some cross border soap opera mirch.
No lives will be altered if we continue to give away airtime to empty CCTV footage. We must bear in mind though that no matter how many roads we may build, funded by whomsoever our heart desires, no matter how much progress we make — it is the country’s children who are the torchbearers of our future.
What kind of future are we looking at when we fail our children?