June 20, 2024
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Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse In Pakistan

by Shayan Nawaz

Child sexual abuse as stated by W.H.O. is the involvement of a child in a sexual activity that the child does not comprehend, or is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared.

The dynamics of child sexual abuse differ from that of an adult as disclosure is rare and tends to be a process rather than a single episode. Disclosure is usually initiated following a physical complaint, or a change in the child’s behaviour. The evaluation of children who have undergone child sexual abuse requires special skill in forensic interviewing, examination, and in taking their history. Definitive signs of physical trauma are very infrequent because the perpetrator seldom uses physical force during the heinous act. All of this accounts to neglect in children who have been subjected to this kind of trauma, as it is quite laborious to detect, and even more so to take action against it.

Kidnap cases for rape and molestation are registered under section 364-A for children and 365-B for a teenager of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

How common is child abuse in pakistan?

Child abuse, child sexual abuse, and even child pornography is a major issue in Pakistan. This issue is prevalent in both rural, as well as developed areas of the country. Unfortunately, not enough measures are being taken to prevent this rising problem, or take strict action against the perpetrators. Child abuse and child sexual abuse are mostly kept secret as the perpetrators mostly know, and abuse their victim’s trust. According to the NGO, ‘Sahil,’ majority of child abuse cases reported, were in Punjab. However, it is pretty evident that under developed areas such as K-P, Gilgit-Baltistan, and FATA do not go ahead, and file a report for such cases as they think of it as a dishonour to their name, and family. Sexually active children run a risk of health problems such as HIV/AIDS, STIs, drug addiction and emotional, physical & mental trauma. There are no surveys, studies, or data to gauge this situation nor are there are any strategies implemented to reach out to the victims, and their families to protect children from sexual abuse, and general abuse.

In the first 20 days of 2020, 21 children were kidnapped, raped, and molested. All of this happened in Islamabad which is Pakistan’s capital, and supposedly the most developed, and liberal city in Pakistan. Out of these 21 children, 16 were female. Furthermore, this staggering number is just the amount of cases reported, and that too just in Islamabad (keep in mind Pakistan has about 212 million people, and Islamabad is just a small city at the foothills of Margalla). Statistics suggest that more than 400 children were raped, molested, and filmed in Punjab’s district Kasur during 2006, and 2014.

The NGO, ‘Sahil,’ states in its report that the reported cases of child abuse increased by 11 percent in the year 2018 when compared to the year 2017, and with approximately 10 children suffering some kind of abuse in Pakistan everyday. Looking back at the year 2018 (the same year that had begun with the horrific rape, and murder of a 6-year old, Zainab Ansari), there were 3,832 cases of child abuse reported with a 33 percent rise in child sexual abuse cases. Most of these cases were in Punjab, Sindh, and KP (with Punjab having the most number of cases).

Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad (in that order) topped the list of the 10 most vulnerable districts for child abuse in the country. The cases of murder after sexual abuse decreased by 16 percent (92) as compared to the 109 cases reported in 2017. This report also found out that most of the perpetrators were in touch with either the family of the child, or the child himself/herself.

What are the preventative measures taken against it?

The police is notorious for slacking off in such cases, and cases taken to court take a lot of time. Officials fail to run background checks, the general population is not even aware of their rights, and laws. In numerous cases, since sex education, and guidance is not provided at all in Pakistan, children take years to acknowledge what had happened to them, and thus immediate action cannot be taken.

A study was conducted by the Children’s Complaints Office (CCO) on the, “The State of Children in Pakistan,” which was funded by UNICEF. It became apparent in that study that the criminal justice system is not child-friendly at all. On top of that there is lack of awareness, knowledge, and data on child abuse, and neglect in general. This is especially the case when perpetrators are from within the family.

In 2019, just a year after the most well-known case of child sexual abuse in Pakistan (rape, and murder of 6-year old Zainab Ansari), a serial child abuser, and pedophile, Sohail Ayaz, was arrested for the drugging, and rape of a 13-year old boy. Sohail Ayaz was arrested soon after the mother of the child registered a First Information Report (FIR) on the 12th of November, 2019. Sohail Ayaz had been registered as a sex offender over a child rape case in the UK, and was alleged to have links with the Dark Web, and a child pornography ring in Romania. Though, Ayaz was deported by the UK government, he was hired by K-P’s Provincial Government as their chartered accountant, indicating that the officials hiring him failed to run any background checks. This just proves that the officials slack off frequently, and that it is quite possible to get away with such crimes in Pakistan. Moreover, the fact that he had been investigated, and had been registered as a sex offender prior to coming to Pakistan shows that the agencies, officials, and police officers here relied on Sohail’s past life in the UK. Even more so, they were unaware that Sohail Ayaz had served a 4-year jail term. Ayaz’s hefty salary of Rs. 300, 000 was spent on satisfying his pedophiliac urges which means that the government was unknowingly paying this person to commit such heinous crimes just because they were not careful enough. Secondly, chances are that such a criminal has not been abroad, and does not have a record similar to what Ayaz had. In that case, everything will be up to our local police, and they would have to do their own research which they are notorious for either not doing efficiently or not doing it at all.