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Opinion

January 26, 2018

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Our responsibility

The serial killer who raped and murdered seven-year-old Zainab has finally been arrested in Kasur. A person performing such horrific crimes is not even worthy to be called a human.

However, the Kasur tragedy is not the first criminal case; a number of innocent children have been raped and killed in the past. After Zainab’s case emerged, similar cases of child abuse were reported from other parts of the country, including from Mardan. It is a matter of shame that internationally our beloved homeland is referred to as a country where society’s most vulnerable segment face severe exploitation. In response to innocent Zainab’s murder, a series of violent protests erupted across the country. While endorsing the public’s demand for strict punishment for the brutal murderer, I would like to define concrete strategies to keep other children safe in future.

Every religion teaches to behave politely with children. Even during wars it is not permitted to harm children. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) always showed special mercy to children. In Hinduism too, children are declared a special gift of God and should be protected at any cost. Termed the future of a country, developed nations have accorded special attention to children’s protection and personality development. The United Nations in its Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as any human being under the age of 18. The countries that endorsed this convention are bound to ensure the protection of children in their respective societies.

I have repeatedly upheld the view that providing children a safe environment so as to keep them free from physical abuse is the primary responsibility of a parent. The Kasur incident is an example of our moral degradation. Only blaming the government and the police while ignoring the parents’ role and social responsibilities is not an appropriate step.

As far as parental duties are concerned, the UNCRC directs member states to allow parents of children less than 18 years of age to exercise their parental duties to nurture their children. In Western countries parents have to face legal action, even imprisonment, if negligence is proven in a court of law.

Some of us are more concerned about the safety of our wealth. Hiring guards and installing CCTV cameras around our business office premises shows how concerned we are for the safety of our corporations. In our absence, we ensure our partners to take care of all the professional dealings. On the other hand, we are generally careless about our children.

The fact that horrific child abuse cases happen in developed countries too shows that neither the government nor the police are able to keep an eye on every child round the clock. In fact, these serious crimes happen behind the curtain and only an active role of parents can prove helpful in preventing them.

In today’s digital age, it is much easier to ensure child protection with the help of smart phones. Location tracking applications installed in children’s cell phones can keep parents informed of their movements. Similarly, children must be made aware to use social media safely. They must be made to understand that sharing personal information on the internet can be dangerous for the entire family.

Children must be advised to keep healthy friendships with fellows of their own age group; unnecessary outdoor visits should be discouraged. Elder people of the neighbourhood should consider all children to be their own. If parents are travelling, they must give their children in the care of trustworthy family elders. In my personal view, grandparents can play a positive role in safeguarding them.

There is also a dire need to introduce legislation about parental responsibilities. At the time of marriage registration, the newly-wed couple must pass a written test about their new duties of raising a family. The government, with the collaboration of civil society organisations, must also introduce guidelines for parents to focus on their duties towards protection of children under the age of 18 years.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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