These are dark times we’re living in but it’s in times like this that influential figures come together to support a cause. While Hollywood campaigns to modify laws to benefit and protect women and provide them with equal opportunities, Pakistan’s celebrities came together and protested the brutal rape and murder of little Zainab this week. There was outrage, with almost all of them speaking up on social media and several – like Mahira Khan, Faysal Qureshi and Ayesha Omar – even stepping out to protest and appeal to government authorities for justice.
We read the comments and asked some of our most prominent celebrities how they, as a popular voice of influence, campaign to change things in Pakistan, and what would they change on priority.
“The problem of child abuse has not been new in our country, we have been facing this major issue since many years. Every time that we lose a precious soul to this inhumane act, we lose the hope for a better nation.”
The actress also spoke of her hit TV show that dealt with the same issue. “Working in Udaari has taught me how important it is for everyone to stand up and fight against child abuse. My heart breaks for the children that have gone through this brutal act! This is the time to speak up, this is the time to fight, this is the time to seek justice and this is the time we start helping each other to get rid of child abuse! Let’s all stand up for Zainab, and make sure that no other angel goes through this pain”.
“I would like us to reflect on what has happened. We claim to be a pious society; we go on and on about the correct way to practice religious rituals. Yet who among us has the courage to call out a sexual harasser or predator? We routinely chide the women and children who do, calling them “dramas” and attention-mongers. We dissuade women from reporting assault. (Your ‘izzat’ is at stake, etc.) When young girls get teased and groped in parks or concert halls, we tell them it’s normal, which is another way of saying ‘You asked for it.’ Of course, we must seek justice for little Zainab and make an example out of her killer. But how many of us are willing to go further? Zainab’s assaulter breathed the same air we do, he grew up hearing the same vile things we do, and at some level, he felt emboldened by attitudes we have tolerated and even nurtured.”
“We are indeed living in dark times. Security and protection are basic human rights for women and children. The one thing that I would like to stress upon is that we need to stop making it such a taboo topic. I firmly believe that ‘change’ begins from within the home, so parents need to open up these channels of communication so that children are not completely unaware of these things. We not only need to teach our children about ‘stranger danger’ but that such an incident can also happen closer to home. We should encourage our children to talk to us and not keep secrets. We must assure them that we will always listen and never ever blame or shame them.
What has happened in Kasur is absolutely horrific! Laws need to be changed and security measures need to be made tighter. When an incident like this takes place, major action should be taken immediately to set an example! If these events are left unnoticed, people will have no fear of committing such a heinous crime over and over again.”
“I believe that we are now living in an era where it has become a necessity to talk about the ongoing issue of child abuse in our country. It is very important to educate not only parents but also relatives, teachers and especially children themselves about sexual abuse, regardless of their gender and socio-economic standing in society. There are so many other aspects of our culture and religion that have stopped us, as a nation, to talk about sexual harassment. It is extremely vital to understand what sexual harassment is and we must, as responsible citizens, humans and parents, teach our children to never blame themselves. Children also need to be taught how to protect themselves accordingly and need to be told to share any uncomfortable experiences they face without feeling guilty about it. Pakistani parents need to develop a friendly and open relationship with their children so that their children feel comfortable enough at any point in time to talk to them and confide in them without feeling scared. The recent Zainab case has left me heartbroken. I sincerely urge the people and our government to take a step forward to find the perpetrators of this horrific act as soon as possible and punish them publicly so we don’t have to come across another similar incident in the future.”
“It was extremely heartbreaking to hear about Zainab’s devastating story. Considering that I am a mother myself, this incident has really shaken me. No parent should have to fear the safety of their children. Child abuse is something that needs to be spoken about openly so that such incidents are not thrown under the rug. All humans, especially children, are so precious and deserve to live in a violence-free environment. I really hope that our government takes this seriously for once as these incidents happen very often in Pakistan and our government seldom acts upon it. Necessary steps need to be taken to punish the criminal of this heinous act and many others like him who have been let out free in the past.”
“Child abuse has become a common phenomenon in Pakistan and I believe that this not only a breach of human rights but also a breach of human dignity. Our children need to be raised in a safe environment and I am extremely heartbroken after hearing about Zainab. No parent should have to face such circumstances and we all, as a nation, need to take a serious stand against child abuse and sexual harassment so such incidents can be put a stop to. Mass media is a very powerful tool and can trigger a change in society as Sharmeen Chinoy has shown in her work on acid attacks and honour killings. On child protection, I think that the government needs to implement the International Rights of the Child Treat that Pakistan has ratified to. We need to pressurize the Pakistan Government for legislative change, which they have been promising for many years. Stiffer punitive deterrents are needed for all those engaged in any form of child abuse.”
“Firstly we need to understand that talking about child abuse is not immoral however taking this serious issue lightly and trying to hide it is definitely immoral. As responsible adults, it is our duty to raise our voices for these innocent souls. Secondly, we need to encourage children to be able to speak about anything inappropriate that is happening with them rather than telling them to keep quiet. After having worked in Udaari the one thing I learned is that speaking up and educating the nation about such critical issues is something that the government should really take an initiative for. We become a part of everything that is trending, share our opinions, and take social media by storm until the next big hashtag comes to life. What I would really want to change is to turn these social media movements into social movements, where every individual, no matter how big or small, becomes an influencer and helps in ending this evil with timely measures. The recent story of the angel Zainab leaves me with a broken heart. To know that there are certain vultures out there who prey on these young children is devastating and we as a nation need to step forward to fight this issue.”
“Child abuse and sexual harassment need to be taken very seriously. It is devastating to come across news of children being ill-treated and reading about violence that has become so prevalent in our society. We need to urge our governments and officials to act upon such crimes in a timely manner and punish the perpetrators as soon as possible so that we can protect all citizens in the future. I stand against torture, violence, and abuse of any and all kinds and really hope that the people of this world can become more responsible and sympathetic towards others.
If we let this go, it will happen again and again. Maybe if we stand up together for Zainab today it’ll help us make peace with who we are as people and what we stand up for as citizens of this country. It’ll help unburden our conscience. Let’s do this for her, but more than anything else let’s do this for ourselves.”
“There is so much around us that needs to be changed. Abuse and violence against children and the protection of our children are definitely of our foremost concern. Any kind of abuse, whether it is sexual, psychological, or verbal, against any human, is unjustified. I would want to take substantial steps in my capacity to not only raise a voice against injustice but to actively work to fix this or to change the current situation. The perpetrators of Zainab’s murder and many others like them who have committed similar crimes need to be punished and made examples of. I believe that people like celebrities and government officials who occupy influential positions, need to get out there and protest, and need to take steps in order to create a collective action so that we can make a better future for the next generation.”
The actress/producer put her thoughts in a simple sentence, “Now we have started to unite and slowly, gradually we will reach that point where the whole industry will unite to campaign against one thing.”