Child sexual abuse cases rise by 17%, says UNICEF-funded study
ISLAMABAD: Although it may not be widely acknowledged, but it is hard to ignore the prevalence of child sexual abuse, exploitation and neglect in Pakistan.
According to a Unicef-funded study on “The State of Children in Pakistan” by the Children’s Complaints Office (CCO), Islamabad, existing laws suffer from weak implementation. The criminal justice system is also not child-friendly.
There is lack of knowledge and data on the prevalence of abuse and neglect, as a whole, especially when it occurs within the family.
The study painted a gloomy picture of child sexual abuse and exploitation situation in Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Fata.
The study revealed that child sexual abuse is normally shrouded in secrecy. The available evidence shows that it is mostly acquaintances that abuse children, and exploit their trust. Victims are both girls and boys.
According to an NGO, Sahil that mostly deals with child rights issues, 3,508 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Pakistan in 2014. The figure shows an increase of 17 per cent from the previous year.
There were 1,225 cases and 258 cases of attempted rape, sodomy, gang rape and gang sodomy. There is a paucity of reliable statistics and published data on the prevalence of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) in the country. Very few cases are reported by families to save family “honour”.
The overall criminal justice system discourages victim to report cases and fight long legal battles in courts. Most cases of child abuse, particularly CSA remain under cover and go unreported in Pakistan; there is no mandated system of reporting child exploitation, abuse and /or neglect.
There are number of penal provisions that deal with different forms of child sexual abuse such as abduction, rape, gang-rape molestation, murder after sexual assault. However, there are no exclusive penal laws for cases of child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation or laws to deal with sexual consent.
All children are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation, but children in difficult circumstances, are at higher risk of being sexually abused and prostituted. The most vulnerable include street children, refugee children, economically active children and those confined in detention centers/jails.
Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in Punjab
Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a sensitive and serious violation of child rights and highly prevalent in Punjab. According to Sahil, 2003 cases of child sexual abuses were reported in 2013 and 2054 cases in 2014 in Punjab.
Of the total 3,508 cases in Pakistan, 58 % cases were reported from the Punjab. 583 cases (19% ) of child sexual abuse were reported from Sindh in 2013 and 875 cases (25 % ) in 2014. In Balochistan, a total of 297 cases were reported of child sexual abuse in 2014. It was a marked rise in the reported cases of child sexual abuse in 2014.
The remaining cases were primarily reported from K-P, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata. However, it is believed that this is a under reported number as cases of sexual abuse are seldom reported and are hidden for fear of dishonour.
Sexually active children run a high risk of health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDs, drug addiction, etc. There is no data or survey to gauge the situation nor are there strategies to reach child victims and protect them from abuse and consequential deadly and fatal diseases.