We have left our daughters to grieve.... Illustration Courtesy Pinterest- Katrina Pallon

We have left our daughters to grieve….

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We have left our daughters to grieve.... Illustration Courtesy Pinterest- Katrina PallonA rape every fifteen minutes, in the countries of our subcontinent —with 90% going unreported and a very poor conviction rate, indicts not just one entire nation. But, all the countries connected together by history and separation. This is no more a women’s issue but a human and universal one.

Nazarul Islam

My wife Nuzhat had carefully gathered the flare of her clothes and stooped down to inspect the last bottle of sanitizer from the bottom rack of a fumigated store. The stench of disinfectant had made us dizzy. My inner self, could not settle for anything with less than 60% of ethanol. And, my painstaking Google research, after all, had to be put to good use. Again, at the shopping mall, Nuzhat has been fastidious with diapers and rash creams too, typical of most urban mothers. Those were her ‘superwoman moments. Perhaps, supermom moments!

However, now both of us are anxious and disturbed to savour these inconsequential obsessions. The Hathras victim in India or the child Zainab in Pakistan were no less our daughters. My angst was fueled for the numerous times by macabre images of a family not powerful and upper-caste enough to claim its dead. Shopping cannot distract a conscience or silence or guilt. This was but a naive effort.

My sky blue face mask has made me flinch at the thought of being gagged, of losing not just my voice but my tongue, too. The lump in my throat just got bigger.

Though the dolorous episodes in two neighboring countries with common ancestry, will soon be expunged from the media to make room for ballot boxes and the horse-trading circus, or the army role in controlling or influencing politics—it will continue to ghost our psyche and forever linger in our hearts.

The names of victims can never be forgotten. The places where crimes were perpetrated were never distant. These seemed familiar, as though a part of me had lived there sometime in the past.

If only our scars had not numbed us, but fired our rage. The collective reaction to crime, rape or otherwise either works as a deterrent or emboldens budding rogues. If only we were angry enough to scare them. We grieved, shriveled, and took cover, allowing them to strike again with unpardonable monstrosity.

A rape every fifteen minutes, in the countries of our subcontinent —with 90% going unreported and a very poor conviction rate, indicts not just one entire nation. But, all the countries connected together by history and separation. This is no more a women’s issue but a human and universal one.

Placards should have changed hands to be held not just by feminists but men and women alike. The Hathras girl lost not just to her gender, but to her caste and class. And Zainab, because she belonged to a family that was too fanned poor….

Stories of rape and assault on the weaker sex make me miserable for days together. And, the subsequent denial and cover-up has also made me furious. The connivance of the police and administration has dishonored an entire population. What are millions of impressionable minds (exposed to the media) to make of such a fiasco?

Here is a paradox for those of us still in a state of shock and awe. India, by not handling a human crisis, and engaging themselves with the enviable, parallel fervor of decoding Bollywood drug parties, they have ended up desensitizing an entire generation to crimes against women.

Today, rapes run the risk of going the groping and eve-teasing way… sexual violations that have fallaciously lost their gravity. Even a rapist is not bashed up like the eve-teasers of yesteryears. As a society, if we do not address the easy access of our children to sexual content and pornography, aren’t we guilty of being partners in crime?

Coming back to the mall, where I had accompanied my wife…to shop for something’s pink, and symbolic….my helplessness has got  the better of me, and I dashed to the cashier’s register, where I had embarrassed myself yet again with the pinkness of the stuff I bought. Can someone like me who enjoys the luxury of affording painless vaccinations share the victims’ pain? I want to reach out to these victims, (in pain and poverty) or their loved ones. Can I do it? What really are my motives, behind the desire?

I have searched for posters of protests and candle marches. None seemed to be in the offing. Isn’t this scary—that from Zainab in Kasur to the Hathras girl, in India—our reaction to gang-rapes is relegated from street protests to mere drawing-room regret?

Again, I shall not lose hope because for people like me, this charity should begin at home. The fact that casual conversations of children are peppered with sexual escapades from the neighborhood or out of a movie warrant a proactive involvement. Sexual memes of classmates going viral speak volumes of the rot. The rise in child sexual abuse by insiders and outsiders alike is propellant enough.

The key however lies not just in teaching our daughters to stand their ground but also in teaching our sons to lower their gaze. In sanitizing our hearts along with our hands, we can surely make a difference.

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Nazarul IslamThe Bengal-born writer is a senior educationist settled in USA. He writes for Sindh Courier and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America.

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