The visible women

A video clip of a small girl being sexually molested in a shop by a man old enough to be her grandfather has gone viral in Pakistan – igniting discussion on social media platforms about the ‘casual’ nature of child sexual abuse in the country and how little girls should wear their dupattas on their heads and wear a full sleeve kameeze if they do not wish to “attract” the sexual advances of men, old enough to be their grandfathers.

It is never the child’s fault.

It is not about your clothes, it is not about your demeanour, it is NEVER your fault. We need to prioritise issues that we talk about. Sharam or haya kay parday mai sab karnay say ghalat theek nahi ho jata.

Posted by Sundas Khan on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sugar and spice and all things nice. In Pakistan, girls and women must be held responsible for attracting the lustful attention of men, all men, regardless of how old the little girls are or how old the men that she “seeks to entice are”.

If shaming, blaming and policing girls and women, especially those from poor working class backgrounds, were an Olympic sport, Pakistan would win gold every time. We would be the world champions.

A few days ago a friend sent me the video clip with the message “look at this old bastard”. To which I responded; “Do I even want to open this????” to which he responded; “Yes”.

The video was uploaded on the Internet with a warning that only people aged over 18 should watch the clip. After all, we cannot offend the sensibilities of Pakistanis when it comes to the sexual abuse of children.

The clip was shared on twitter with the following unsolicited advice:

“Please avoid sending your daughters to the shop alone. Spread the video and help reach this culprit.”

The video, filmed by the looks of things on a mobile phone from behind a door and a short distance away from where the abuse is taking place is crude and unsophisticated, it is what makes the short clip even more powerful and urgent.

The little girl, her tiny frame shrinking, steps backwards as the old man shopkeeper reaches out to touch her chest and molest her, she moves away but he continues to lunge forward, his hand gropes her chest with force, she is being lifted off the ground and she yelps.

He then carries on with the business of being a respected man with a beard, an elder, a shopkeeper, and a pillar of his community. Outside the traffic and hustle and bustle of life goes on and everything is normal. Except it isn’t.

The viewer watching this clip plays the role of the average Pakistani citizen, witnessing what is going on from a safe, short distance so he or she is left to decide what their own reaction is to the abuse and horror unfolding in front of them is.

What would the viewer do if they were seeing this abuse-taking place in front of them? Would they step in and tell the dirty old man: NO. STOP. Would they then comfort the girl and tell her she has been violated and this man must be reported to the police? Or would they carry on observing silently and do nothing and further still would they blame the girl and then tell her family to avoid sending her to the shops alone?

Because, you know, this never would have happened if she had just avoided going to the shop alone.

The person filming the clip uploaded it on to the internet – beyond this there is no information as to where this was filmed and what the person behind the camera did afterwards. Was the shopkeeper reported to the police? Perhaps we will never know just as we will never know the lasting psychological and physical impact of this old mans crime against this girl child and her body.

However, what we do know is that child sexual abuse is taking place in Pakistani society in plain sight, inside and outside family structures and communities as is blaming victims of abuse for the crimes being carried out against them.

Many women and girls are left to internalise their sexual abuse an harassment knowing that if they speak out they face being blamed and shamed. As this video clip shows far too many of us are voyeurs to this abuse and prepared to do nothing about it.

Shaista Aziz is the co founder of the Women’s Advancement Hub, WAH