Just because someone is rich, doesn’t mean that sexual abuse will not hurt

Ammara Ahmad is one of the editors of Viewpoint, she tweets at @AmmaraTiger.

Ammara Ahmed
Ammara Ahmed

Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the renowned Sitar player Ravi Shankar and a Sitar player herself, recently released a message.

While lending support to the One Billion Rising in India—a women rights mobilization in reaction to the Delhi Gang Rape—, in this video-message Ms Shankar courageously admits that she as a child was sexually abused.

‘As child, I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly,’ she says.

‘Growing up like most women I know I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things like I didn’t know how to deal with, I didn’t know I could change’, she adds.

Reacting to Ms. Shankar’s message, Moeed Pirzada, a noted Pakistani TV anchor, posted the comment below on his Facebook:

‘Why to declare..? this new global tendency to seek “importance” through claiming “victim hood” by those who are otherwise rich, strong and privileged owes its origins in the United States and is certainly an interesting American gift to the modern world…’

Moeed Pirzada

May one dare ask our dear Moeed Pirzada: Why not declare it?

A Columbia-graduate and an employee at Pakistan’s state-run television, he is expected to be more sensitive. However, his objections salted with class-connotation and peppered with anti-capitalist subtext hardly differ from the ‘philosophy’ espoused by the nine notorious Pakistani men who abused teen-aged white girls in Rochdale, UK. [For details: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/may/08/rochdale-child-sex-ring-case ].

These infamous-nine also thought that the corrupt teen-aged white girls were a legitimate target to prey upon. But let us return to Mr. Pirzada. His argument is flawed on many counts.

Firstly, a musician of Ms. Shankar’s stature hardly requires any petty attention-seeking. Secondly, it takes immense courage as a victim of child-abuse to come out owing to the feelings of shame attached to it. Thirdly, it will be ostentatious to believe Mr. Pirzada who implicitly claims that child-abuse victims are pretending all the time to stay at the centre-stage.

One wonders if Mr. Pirzada has conducted any investigation before reaching his conclusion. One hopes he knows that child abuse is brutal, life-altering and indeed agonizing. Pirzada’s judgment on Shankar is regrettably preposterous. Such an attitude indeed discourage the young to come out.

Finally, just because someone is rich, doesn’t mean that sexual abuse will not hurt. One can be rich but as a child or woman vulnerable to sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Pirzada is probably hinting at Oprah Winfrey when he refers to the ‘modern American gift to the world’. Oprah is one of the most high-profile child-abuse and rape victims in the world. However, one may also claim that her revelations have given many such victims confidence and the courage to come out even if one can argue about mediatized commercialization of her personality.

Similarly, it is encouraging to see that the unfortunate Delhi Gang Rape incident has triggered a big debate on gender-equality in India. While abuse victims like Oprah and Shankar can grow out of their past in countries like the USA, in places like Pakistan crass statements like the one Mr. Pirzada delivered reflect the general mindset.

Hence, it is not surprising that rape is just as common in Pakistan as in India yet people have never taken in their millions to streets in this country to seek justice for a rape victim. Often the victim is blamed for invoking the crime. In this case, nobody should be surprised if Moeed Pirzada believes that Shankar is playing the ‘poor little rich victim’.

Just for Mr. Pirzada’s knowledge, child sexual abuse is rife in Pakistan. Hope he reads the statistics Sahil, an NGO, issues every year on child abuse in Pakistan. In fact, the abuse is most likely to be more prevalent than perceived. Pedophiles are present in every country. We need to understand the danger they pose to our children. Moid’s insensitive comments can cause more trouble for such young victims.

In 2011, the international human rights monitoring NGO, Equality Now!, conducted a study and discovered that sexual violence victims faced ‘numerous obstacles in their pursuit of justice’. And what happens when in this honor and shame-obsessed society, the sex-abuse victim is a child?

I therefore agree with Anoushka Shankar here: ‘Enough is enough. I am rising. I am rising for Jyoti and women like her. I am rising with the women of my country’. And hopefully the rest of the world—including Moeed Pirzada—rises too.

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