Child abuse cases are becoming an alarming trend in Pakistan. In the first half of 2018 as many as 2,322 countrywide cases of child abuse were reported by the media.
Traditionally, the cases of child abuse have been treated as domestic affair. No cases are registered and news curbed. Despite the presence of protective laws for children, the law enforcement agencies prefer to look the other way. The worst argument against reporting a crime is the taboo attached to these abuse cases, which can stigmatise an abuse victim and his/her family.
Abuse victims’ families, therefore, choose silence.
The Parents of Zainab Ansari challenged the tradition by breaking their silence over the abuse and the murder of their daughter in Kasur. This act alone became a precursor to a nationwide campaign for rigorous measures to ensure and improve child protection mechanisms.
Consequently, amid a positive federal response the provinces also pulled up their sleeves. Education sector in Punjab vowed to teach child protection in their schools. Zainab’s case paved the way for many other abuse victim’s families to come out and demand justice as recently parents in Karachi have also come out and investigation and severe punishment to the offender. However, the Sahil report also states that while 66 per cent of abuse victims are girls, 44 per cent of those abused are boys.
Child abuse cases involves crime categories i.e., abduction, sodomy, rape, attempted rape and sodomy, gang rape and sodomy, child marriages, etc. Sahil’s, Cruel Numbers Report, claims that 65 per cent of the child abuse reported cases occur in Punjab and 25 per cent of the cases are reported in Sindh. Another worrying trend is that two-thirds of most cases in Pakistan happen in rural areas.
The legal and child rights experts have highlighted that previously the federal and provincial governments have enacted bills and laws but dragged their feet about enforcing them. The child protection agencies in law enforcement, judiciary and welfare need to be centralized across the country so that immediate results can be had. The measures promised by various provinces need to be enforced and need to show results.
The reported cases indicate that 12 children are abused in Pakistan daily. The worrying factor is that these are number of the cases that are reported in the media. Those cases that go unreported may be even larger. In a child’s tender years, every minute of inaction tantamount to a crime against humanity.
What Pakistan needs urgently now is a collective approach through public private partnership to deal with this menace. Remember, these children are our future and these parents will vote to decide the future rulers.