Zainab Ansari was an eight year old Pakistani girl whose death shook the world when she was found dead in piles of garbage 2km away from her grandmother’s home. The fact that she was abducted, raped and brutally murdered sent shivers down my spine as her killer still remains out on the streets today. The fact that Zainab was the eighth minor to whom this has happened sparked the trend #JusticeForZainab, as thousands of civilians gathered in protest fighting for her killer to be brought to justice.
I know this is quite a morbid read but after examining all the stories and articles published online, I felt inclined to share my views since I am fortunate enough to have a platform to do so. When I had initially heard about the incident, not only was I disgusted that such a monster existed, but also that this continues to happen on a daily, maybe even hourly, basis. My mind immediately flashed back to December 2012 when I was visiting India and the gang rape of “India’s daughter” had occurred just days after we arrived. As ignorant as I was at 18, I realised how the power of protest and having a voice as a woman could really send shock waves through society if you believe in it.
So, what happened?
Picture your eight year old sister, relative, grandchild – whomever you can perceive as a really innocent and vulnerable being in your life – that is Zainab. She was going to Qur’an classes not too far from her grandmother’s home and upon finishing those classes, failed to return home. Her relatives, alarmed by her disappearance, called the police who remained negligent in their approach to finding her. In fact, Zainab’s relatives proclaimed that the police would literally come to the house, eat their food and then leave. Whilst searching for her, police came across her body, which had appeared to have been brutally strangled, in a garbage bin. Forensic evidence suggested signs of rape.
As if it wasn’t sad enough, her parents did not make it for her funeral as they were returning from pilgrimage (Umrah), hence why she was staying with her grandmother. The family was able to find CCTV footage of a man holding Zainab’s hand as she walked home. It was shown precisely at the time she was claimed to have been missing and if you watch closely, she does not appear to be alarmed with the male figure. The police’s involvement has been nothing less of pathetic as they continue to fail to find the monster that committed this indecency. Thus, the whole of Pakistan has outburst in a rage of protest with police officials being sacked and their stations under attack from angry civilians.
Incidents such as these are not new – in fact, they happen everywhere around the world. So what makes cases like Nirbhaya and Zainab’s so different? Both of these females – regardless of how people might blame the victim – were innocent. Their deaths were horrific in the most dehumanising way possible. It makes you question what are these criminals’ motives for doing this? Many blame drugs, alcohol or even the victim themselves, claiming they “deserved” it. Some go to the extent of blaming the family, claiming they should never have left their children alone, yet the timings of these incidents occurred in the early hours of the evening and in no way should one’s family have to endure the blame. They have lost enough.
In my opinion, it is beyond the scope of intoxicants, family or the victims – it is education. Both Pakistan and India remain democratic states so they have the laws and the freedom of speech to enforce protection, yet people still fail to implement them. As an individual that is fortunate enough to be educated, it is clear that people who commit these crimes lack any sense of humility and knowledge. What saddens me most from this situation is how lurid it is to see how different people base their justifications for their actions on culture or other illegal issues. A criminal should not shield their actions with trivial excuses; in every way imaginable, the men who have committed these crimes should be reprimanded and it is on the justice system to enforce that right.
So, what can we do?
If you’re reading this now, then you’re already there – the story of Zainab is not the only one out there. In fact, there are many helpless women that have endured this suffering. Our society is lucky that social media can have such a great effect today in the smallest of ways. Recently the movement #TimesUp occurred, which provides legal support to those who have been sexual assaulted or harassed in any way. This is an empowering movement that I feel should be seen beyond the Hollywood sugar coat of it all. If you know someone who has gone through assault or has been harassed, then I urge you to help those who have endured this pain.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this as an amalgamation of emotions build up but yet I feel that awareness of these issues brings us one step closer to finding justice in these situations. Share the stories of Zainab and Nirbhaya and educate yourself by reading about these incidents and by making yourself aware of the people who need our help. The metastasis of this situation is the rape, the killings and the abduction of children which need to be addressed. These issues, and especially sexual-based offences, are buried in a myriad of cultural and value-based belief systems that require some serious unpacking and dissolving.
I hope we can come together as society to aid in the movement of finding #JusticeForZainab and justice for all those that have endured the harsh realities of these offences.