By Nermeen Murad
A national newspaper recently published pictures of the “home” of five-year-old Yazan who died last week at the end of a short life replete with torture, domestic abuse and neglect.
His story has won the hearts of Jordanians and captured the imagination of many writers who took to their columns demanding punishment for the perpetrators, investigation into social services, investigation into the crime. etc. Most also cried over this young boy’s wasted life and miserable stab at enjoying life even if it was a few stolen moments on an old plastic toy horse.
I took a walk with my husband a couple of nights ago and saw a man beating his son back into a building with a wooden stick. The boy only wanted to follow his father out of the house, but he was cruelly snubbed and sent crying back “home”.
We, the parents, forget that we are not the owners of these children. This is not slavery. They have been given to us on loan so that we may care for them and protect them until they grow up and can look after themselves and in turn have children and protect those. That is the cycle of nature.
The state is in place with its laws to ensure that we fulfill our duties towards the next generation and is expected to step in to safeguard them if we fail.
Accepting, as we seem to have done, that parents can and should slap their kids around a bit to discipline them, does and has led to many cases of child abuse in our families, on our streets and in our communities, which have remained unchecked and untreated.
What are we going to do to make sure that there isn’t another Yazan on every street in our cities and villages?
The simple answer is that we can’t remove all possibility that this type of incident would recur, but we can certainly try to first create legal deterrents to such crime.
I have always tried to argue in my writing that the first step is always, absolutely always, to protect the weak and fragile in our society through our legal system. The first step is always the law and then a concerted effort to educate and change the mindset that allows for the abuse of the weak in our society.
In a meeting of activists seeking to change laws that pertain to women, a well-known activist retold the story of how parliamentarians vehemently argued against amendments in the law aimed at protecting child rights because they felt those interfered with the socially acceptable norms that allow parents to physically discipline their children. She was telling the story to show how difficult it was to convince parliamentarians to accept protection even for their children, let alone their women.
When I consider the performance of Parliament, I don’t worry about the privileges they grant themselves in travel allowances, salary hikes and all other monetary benefits. Those “weaknesses” are ones I can live with. I worry about the intransigence and in many cases the carelessness with which most parliamentarians handle the laws that come to them and which deal with women and children.
Yazan is not only a victim of his dysfunctional and poor family. He is also the victim of a society that is ignorant of his rights, a state that had turned a blind eye to the excesses by some parents in society and certainly a Parliament that has been busy with the “number” of allowances and reelection votes instead of the number of victims of the laws it failed to update and upgrade to protect the weaker and more fragile citizens.