Tackling child abuse
THE figures provided by a local NGO for child abuse in the country should convince both the government and society at large of the need to openly debate a topic that is considered taboo by most.
Child sexual abuse is on the rise, and the statistics for April-June show that 815 cases of abuse were reported, as compared to 500 for the preceding three months.
It is quite probable that the actual figures run into several thousands. But the majority of these are not reported as the traumatised young victims have no idea where to look for help, especially if the abuser is known to them, which is usually the case.
Governed by restrictive cultural mores, their elders, too, prefer not to report the matter, thus encouraging the abuser to target other children as well. Continued sexual abuse results in severe psychological problems for children, who suffer from a range of negative emotions – from fear to depression and guilt.
Many grow up into dysfunctional adults, often indulging in sexual abuse themselves.The government has long talked of a child protection policy to address child abuse, exploitation and other forms of ill-treatment of children.
Such a policy must take into account all international and regional commitments that Pakistan has made towards the welfare of children and ensure that all legal safeguards are in place.
But as the government mulls over its intended move, children all over the country continue to be exposed to molesters who are present in madressahs, at workplaces, among their acquaintances, and even in the family.
Already vulnerable because of their age, poverty exposes most to a variety of shady characters. It is also time for society to realise that by brushing the issue under the carpet, it is actually perpetuating this cycle of abuse.
Some years ago, people received a jolt when the serial killer Javed Iqbal confessed that he had sexually assaulted and killed 100 young boys.
But the shock society received then has yet to be transformed into action that would ensure that such a horrid crime is not committed again and that child molesters and others of their ilk are relentlessly pursued, arrested and awarded exemplary punishment.