Kasur that garnered international attention for recurring child sexual abuse incidents in recent years has again hit the newspaper headlines lately. This time, three minor boys have been sexually assaulted and killed in cold blood. This very incident has again saddened the whole milieu of our country and raised many questions over the performance of law enforcing institutions and the concerted efforts of our society as a whole. It is undoubtedly a matter of great shame for us that we as a nation, have miserably failed to protect our children from these wild beasts who prey on our loved ones with impunity.
What is more shocking is the report released by the child rights organization Sahil which depicts a very alarming picture of the state of child sex abuse in our country. According to the report released at the Lahore Press Club on Thursday, the data from January to June in 2019 reveals that 729 girls and 575 boys became victims of sexual exploitation. The cases under major categories included 378 of abduction, 139 of rape, 153 of sodomy, 46 of gang rape, 88 of gang sodomy whereas 12 boys and 4 girls have been murdered after sexual abuse.
According to Sahil, in 2018, there were 3,307 such incidents reported to police, 39 cases were not reported and 56 cases were not registered. Around 430 cases were reported by newspapers with incomplete information.
In Lahore only, there were 50 incidents reported last year while nine children had been abducted and 12 reported missing from January to June 2019. January to June data gave grim numbers as it included five incidents of rape, seven of sodomy, three of gang rape and five of gang sodomy.
The majority of child sex abuses are registered under Zina ordinance 1979 which prohibits all kinds of illegal sexual intercourse including rape.
The most horrifying disclosure made by Sahil is that the most common perpetrator of the child sex abuse was an acquaintance with the victim and the victim’s family. Out of a total of 1,304 cases, 614 cases were such where the abusers had acquaintance with victims or victim’s family. In all, 142 cases were reported in which strangers were involved in abusing children.
Most victims (414) were between 11 and 15 years old, followed by 5 to 10 years old (171 cases), and 16 to 18 years old (117 cases). The youngest age group one to five years old had the least number of cases (75). In 401 cases, the age of victims was not mentioned in newspapers.
Additionally, in total, 203 children have been abused in their own places, 300 at an acquaintance’s place, four in a haveli, 12 in a madrassa, three at their workplace and 162 in open places, including fields, streets, and forests. Punjab had the most cases of sexual abuse (652), followed by Sindh (458), Federal (90), KP (51), Balochistan (32), AJK (18) and GB (3).
Pakistan in Grip of Child Abduction Incidents
This grim and grave situation suggests that “pedophilia” is increasing at an exponential rate in our society. It is quite disgusting and the moment of great shame for our society as a whole. This alarming surge of child sex abuse in our society reflects that our children are extremely vulnerable.
Pedophiles easily victimize our loved ones without any fear of penalization. Such beasts need absolute cleansing from our society. I am afraid that if they continue to thrive, they would keep jeopardizing the life and honor of our innocent children. Therefore, all the stakeholders i.e. parents, children, and society as a whole should make a common cause against these wild animals in the guise of human beings so that we may transform our society into a safe haven for our kiddies.
Pakistan actress @TheMahiraKhan urges parents to educate their children about 'sexual abuse, good touch & bad touch', says sensitive topics should be made part of our course of studies. #JusticeForZainab pic.twitter.com/l3DylGV7f3
— Roohan Ahmed (@Roohan_Ahmed) January 11, 2018
To this end, we should, first of all, understand the gravity of the issue and then devise a strategy to cope with this burgeoning social evil. Here is the tiny effort on my part that may help construe the problem and take necessary measures accordingly.
WHO defines pedophilia as” the involvement of a child in a sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent or that violates the laws or social taboos of the society”.
There are certain myths attached to pedophilia that need to be debunked. One of the myths attached to pedophilia is that pedophiles are mostly strangers to children. It is altogether a misguided opinion; according to research, conducted by certain noted NGOS especially Sahil (who work on child sex abuse) 47% are relatives, 43% acquaintances and merely 7% are strangers. Hence, it is wrong to admonish kids only to be cautious of strangers.
They should also be equally careful in their dealings with familiar ones, the abusers can be anyone i.e. the siblings, step-parents, the grandparents, the teachers, the neighbors, the servants, cousins, uncles, aunts, and the religious leaders, etc. in a nutshell, all those people with whom a child interacts in his/her social domain. That’s why the parents are supposed to keep an eagle eye on all those people who share proximity with their children. The parents should trust nobody in this matter. After all, it is a matter of our children’s safety and security.
Moreover, it is also a myth that only the girls are a victim of child sex abuse, boys are also equally vulnerable. Therefore, the homogenous protective measures are required for the protection of both the sex.
In addition, it is also a wrong perception that mostly the children from an economically disadvantaged section of the society become an easy victim of the pedophiles. Sexual abuse crosses all kind of socio-economic barriers. Comparatively, the children of the privileged class are more at risk than that of the children of the less privileged class as they are surrounded by servants even in the absence of their parents. Numerous cases testify to the fact that the children belonging to well-to-do families were molested by their own servants i.e. drivers, chefs, security guards & maids.
The DNA profile of all the citizens should be included in the database of NADRA; it will help us detect the culprits easily as it did in the case of Zainab.
Now, the question arises how we can put an end to this rampant social evil; what legal and social remedy is available to nip this social malady in the bud. To put this into effect, a multipronged strategy is required. Following is the mention of socio-legal blueprint to rid our society of this mushrooming menace.
On social front, we should narrow down the parent-children communication gap as much as possible for enabling our children to express their issues with us with great amount of confidence. We should ask our kids to keep us informed and updated about their day to day activities; who are their friends; what they do; what are their hobbies etc. For this, we, the parents should take time out of our hectic schedule for our children in order to make them feel that we are with them. We should also provide our children with our exclusive attention, solicitude and counseling. In this way, they would feel a sense of protection and solace and with the passage of time; the parent-children trust deficit would wither away and they would resume confiding in us with no fear of admonishment and bullying.
Sexual abuse should be taught in schools in Pakistan .. kids should be made aware of inappropriate touch .. especially parents must teach them at home .. there are many paedophiles in pak but no one is aware of such #JusticeForZainab
— Sehrish Javed (@sehrishj) January 23, 2018
Besides, children should also be sensitized about the birds and the bees (sex education) if not in detail but to the extent that they may distinguish what is good touch and bad touch, to say the least. For this, both the teachers at school and the parents at home should play their respective roles.
On legal front, we find that a lot of legislation has been made to tackle the issue of child sex abuse but there is an absence of its enforcement. The majority of child sex abuses are registered under Zina ordinance 1979 which prohibits all kinds of illegal sexual intercourse including rape. Apart, the Sindh children act 1955 and the Punjab children ordinance 1983 also cover some aspects of child sex abuse.
Interestingly, after the revelation of child pornography racket, 20 people were nabbed by the police pertaining to this biggest ever criminal scam. By the time, child pornography was not criminalized; only sodomy and rape were punishable under the law. Consequently, several other provisions were added to our legislature in order to further strengthen our child protection framework.
Read more: Child pornography in Pakistan declining: PTA
The first amendment made to Pakistan penal code in 2016 with regard to child sex abuse criminalized sexual assault against minors, child pornography, and trafficking. Sexual assault is now punishable for up to seven years in prison (previously only rape was a crime) and child pornography (previously not included in law) is punishable by seven years.
As mentioned earlier, sufficient legislation has been made to arrest the shameful growth of child sex abuse; the need of the hour is to implement that already enacted laws in letter and spirit.
Moreover, special legislation is also required as the situation demands. Like the case of Zainab, all cases of child sex violence should be tried in anti-terrorism court so that they must be prosecuted with the same vigilance and expedition as that of the cases of terrorism. Additionally, the DNA profile of all the citizens should be included in the database of NADRA; it will help us detect the culprits easily as it did in the case of Zainab.
Above 1,300 child sexual abuse cases reported in Pakistan within six months
— The News (@thenews_intl) September 20, 2019
To sum it up, all the stakeholders should leave no stone unturned to arrest the growth of pedophilia in our society since it is bringing us a bad name nationally and internationally. And Above all, it is a matter of our beloved children whose value in our life surpasses everything that we own in this world. It is, therefore, incumbent on PM Imran Khan to deal with this grave issue on a priority basis. After all, we can tolerate anything in Naya Pakistan but the existence of this social pestilence that has jeopardized the honor and the life of our innocent children.
Abdul Rasool Syed is a Legal Practitioner-cum columnist based in Quetta Balochistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.