**A mere three weeks after 15 year old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for blogging in support of education for girls in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan, another teenage girl has been brutally attacked and this time killed. However this time, rather than the Taliban, it was her own parents. They poured acid over her after they decided she “stood too close to a boy” and was thus probably conducting an illicit and shameful affair.**
If the fact, in 2012, that girls are dying in brutal attacks of which their parents openly admit to perperpetrating is reprehensible enough, the ages of these girls adds another dimension of aboherence.
Anosh Zafar, the young victim of the acid attack, was only 16 when she was murdered. She had no stake in the battleground where sexist ideology is fought out.
As ever, the condescending Western press have exhausted the point that such killings are a reaction to wounding male pride – the fathers who are resorting to murder and disfigurement to rebuff some primitive notion of dishonour. But let us consider the strength of a parent-child bond, and the nature of this particular accusation – ridiculous as it appears, of standing too close to and “looking at” a boy – we can surely only deduce that the problem has escalated far beyond the issue of pride and the barbaric logic of honour killings. The problem is that these murders are knee-jerk responses to a prescribed ideology.
In much the same way, it is not the time for talking government policy. It is far, far too late for such discussions. Too late to talk of what the Pakistani government is going to do, what measures it is going to put in place to punish the parents who commit these crimes. It seems ludicrous that people can even consider the bureaucracy of law-making, when it is so obvious the problem has its roots in people’s heads: in their beliefs. No amount of imprisonment is going to prevent these crimes if people believe their actions are truly right. The problem lies in why and how they believe a 16-year-old girl should die for standing too close to a boy, and, most importantly, who is teaching them to believe this.
Our entire perspective on these tragedies is outdated and futile. We can continue to debate legal loopholes and lack of convictions, and we can while our time away condemning a certain section of the Pakistani population for their sense of pride, but such arguments are no longer valid and will no longer resonate. We must start to focus on the ideological aspect – the people who are teaching these men to react with such blind rage toward their own daughters.
We have understood that we cannot simply snap our fingers and call for immediate change, and we have realised that the change people are hoping for must be gradually nurtured. But we have obviously not understood that our concept of change is coming from the wrong place entirely.
The time has come to look at the underlying roots of these misplaced beliefs, and begin to plant seeds of hope for those who are suffering such appalling abuse – hope that the situation can change.