Unhinged Abuse

Pakistan is faced with a burgeoning menace of child abuse and a majority of cases in the country go unreported. The country has several laws to protect children but experts say that with poor implementation and low conviction rate, child abuse has become a persistent problem.
The NGO Sahil in its annual report stated that there has been a 4 per cent increase in documented cases of major crimes against children (2,960 cases of child sexual abuse, kidnapping, missing children and child marriages) in 2020 from the previous year. To put this figure into perspective, this means that at least eight children were abused each day last year.
The report stated that the data shows that 80 children were murdered after sexual abuse in 2020 out of the total reported cases of 2,960. The number of murder cases after sexual abuse was 70 in 2019.
The perpetrators of this heinous crime either threaten children with dire consequences or lure them through affection, money or candies and many of these children continue to suffer abuse for years.
Several child abuse cases including rape and murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari in Kasur, and rape and murder of 5-year-old girl in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and the rape of a 6-year-old girl in Sukkur, Sindh province have sent shockwave among people.
An analysis of the data reveals that in 2020 alone, out of the total reported cases, 985 cases were reported of sodomy, 787 cases were rape, 89 cases were pornography and child sexual abuse, and 80 cases were reported of murder after child sexual abuse, whereas 834 cases were reported of abduction, reported The Express Tribune.
Sexual abuse against boys is much more common than people believe, according to Developmental Psychologist at the Aga Khan University Waliyah Mughis.
“Both, female and male victims can struggle to be believed by others but the taboo surrounding male child victims maybe even higher. Regardless of gender, the harmful effects of sexual violence are the same for males and females: guilt, self-blame, anger, fear, confusion, distrust, difficulty at school and work, difficulty forming and maintaining trusting relationships, increased risk of substance misuse and self-harm,” she noted.
On other hand, Child Protection Bureau Chairperson Sarah Ahmed stressed the need for more efforts to prevent sexual and physical abuse of children.
“The government is taking concrete steps to curb sexual violence against children. However, the rise in child sexual abuse over the years is alarming,” she added, stressing the need to create awareness about the causes of sexual abuse of children and measures to prevent it.
“Stricter laws are being introduced for perpetrators of sexual violence against children and women,” Ahmed said.
Experts say the government should do better and provide more training and resources to ensure that the police, doctors, court officials, social workers, and child welfare authorities respond properly to allegations of child sexual abuse. Pakistan’s children deserve a safe childhood.
The brutal and gruesome kidnapping, rape and murder of Zainab triggered debate in Pakistan over whether to teach children how to guard against sex abuse and in its struggle to ensure protection of children, the government enacted the Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Act, 2020. The government also established the Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Agency for missing and abducted children.
However, activists maintain this won’t end the child abuse cases as children are needed to be given knowledge of the issue. Continued communication between children and parents are necessary to boost child’s confidence. Experts say this will encourage children to speak their mind in case of any kind of approach.
Observers say that much can be still done for protection of children and in this regard recommendations include child-friendly courts, special desk at police stations and awareness for children and parents.