Child sex abuse on the rise in Pakistan

Islamabad: In recent months, incidents of violence against children, particularly sexual abuse and murder, have increased in Pakistan to an alarming level.

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According to Sahil, an organization working on protection of children against abuse, around eight children were sexually abused on a daily basis in the country from January 1 to June 30, 2020.

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In some of the cases, children were killed after being subjected to sexual abuse. According to the report, as of June 2020, some 497 children were sexually abused.

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Punjab worst hit

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The report highlights that most of the cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Punjab where the ratio remained over 57 per cent.

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Of the rest, 32 per cent were reported in Sindh and 6 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the report further says.

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Even in the federal capital that is considered a comparatively safe city, cases of child sexual abuse were reported and more than 35 cases were reported during the first six months of the current year while in Balochistan 22 cases, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir 10 cases were reported.

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The report goes on to say that the rural areas of Pakistan turned out to be the hunting ground of the molesters as the incidence ratio of child sexual abuse remained 62 per cent there while 38 per cent were reported from urban areas.

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“In these incidents of abuse and torture, at least 173 children were gang-raped, whereas there were 227 reports of attempted sexual assault. Moreover, 38 children were killed after they were sexually abused” the report shares the figures.

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Girls more vulnerable

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Of the children who were subjected to sexual abuse, 53 per cent were girls and 47 per cent boys. The report says that girls are more vulnerable to child sexual abuse than boys in the age brackets of up to 5 years and 16-18 years while boys were found to be more vulnerable to sexual abuse in the age brackets of 6-10 years and 11-15 years. Sahil has also highlighted 51 cases of underage marriage that were reported during the first six months of the current year.

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The conclusions were drawn from January-June 2020 data from 84 newspapers and incidents from all four provinces, it added.

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COVID-19 pandemic aggravated child abuse

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While talking to Gulf News, HR activist working for child protection and women rights in Pakistan, Valerie Khan termed the report findings quite disturbing with regard to abuse of children in Pakistan.

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COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this violence against women and children, said she adding, “It is what the ‘shadow pandemic’ and countries and CSOs are working on devising global, regional and national strategies/solutions. What is essential is that we finally focus on putting in place systemic child protection mechanisms down to community level that are participated and informed by community members including the children.”

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Factors behind child abuse

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Khan said there might be a number of factors behind violence against children and women ranging from typical mindset, lack of mental health to inadequate school curriculum and absence of protection/prevention mechanism.

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Khan was of the opinion that we needed to focus on prevention, protection, establishment of juvenile courts and train the volunteers as well as the public sector officials dealing with children issues.

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Elaborating further she said ‘prevention’ includes awareness, school curriculum, community mobilisation, mega awareness campaign, gully ban/ stop child labour, ensure all children go to school.

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By protection, she meant establishing CPUs, family-based alternative protection structures, ensuring child protection policies in all structures with children with safe & confidential reporting mechanisms, etc.

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