Multiple Child abuse incidents have shaken the country over the years. Despite FIRs, media reports, arrests and mass outrage child abuse cases continued to erupt throughout the country in 2020.
As reports of minor rapes and murder emerged throughout the year, critics deem it a result of the incompetence of the police and the lack of resolve of the government and the state.
The most prominent scandal in the country’s history was the Kasur abuse scandal in 2015. The incident led to a nationwide uproar, with cases filed in Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore.
In response, the Senate passed the bill criminalizing sexual assault against minors, child trafficking and pornography for the first time in the history of Pakistan in 2016. Previously, only acts of rape and sodomy had been punishable under the law.
After the incident, it was hoped that the incidences of child sexual abuse in Pakistan might decrease. However, Child sexual abuses across the county are increasing day by day.
Alarming rise in child abuses in Pakistan
The scenario of Pakistan regarding child abuse in 2019 and 2020 was quite alarming compared to 2018. According to a report from Sahil, an NGO working for a safe environment for children, 12 children have sexually abused every day in Pakistan and the situation in rural areas is extremely worrying.
The NGO in its report on 17 March 2020 stated a total of 2,846 child abuse cases were reported from all four provinces including Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) in 2019.
Major crime categories of the reported cases
The major crime categories of the reported cases are 778 abductions, 405 missing children, 348 sodomy cases, 279 rape cases, 210 attempted rapes, 205 gang sodomy cases and 115 gang rapes.
The gender divide shows that out of the total 2,846 cases of child abuse, 54pc of victims were girls and 46pc were boys.
Age-wise information shows that children are most vulnerable to abuse in the age group 6-15 years. A total number of 3,722 abusers are identified, and 2,222 were the acquaintances of the victims.
Out of the total number of 2,846 cases, 64pc (1,816) were reported from rural areas and 36pc (1,030) cases were reported from urban areas.
Recent child abuse cases
On 6 September 2020, a five-year girl was raped and killed in Karachi. The deceased Marwa’s father Omar Sadiq said that his daughter had gone out to buy biscuits from a nearby shop at 7 pm, never to be seen again.
The investigation has revealed that Marwah may have been kidnapped sometime after leaving the shop.
The incident of sexual violence shook the people of Karachi, particularly Old Sabzi Mandi, after Marwa, was found dead. The family lives in Karachi’s Essa Nagri area, and Marwah was an only child.
The level of devastation that her parents have gone through is immeasurable, especially as they have discovered that the culprits abducted and carried on raping Marwah for two days before killing her and dumping her dead body in a garbage container.
On September 4, a 14-year-old mentally challenged boy had been sexually assaulted in the Dhok Hayat Khan area of Gujjar Khan. The medical report conducted in a hospital proved that teenager was sexually abused.
The father of the victim, a rickshaw driver by profession, said that his son is studying in a special education school as he is mentally handicapped.
On September 7, a 13-year-old boy in Burewala city of Punjab was allegedly gang-raped by four men with the ordeal being filmed, according to the victim’s family.
The incident took place within the jurisdiction of Burewala Police Station. In this regard, the victim informed that the four accused forcibly took him out of the village and raped.
On August 22, a 14-year-old girl was strangled to death after being raped in the Manawan area of Lahore.
Sources said the family of the deceased tried to bury the body of the girl without bringing the incident into the notice of the police.
A six years old girl has reportedly been brutally murdered after being raped in Bajaur on August 17.
On August 12, a girl was allegedly gang-raped by three men including her ‘friend’ with whom she came into contact through the popular TikTok video-sharing app in Lahore.
On August 10, a man has allegedly raped a 10-year-old girl in the limits of Golra police station Islamabad.
According to sources, the girl was raped by her neighbor Mehboob in Chongi Dhok Quraysh Street No-26.
Zainab Alert Bill
Human rights activists, conscientious lawmakers and all right-minded citizens of this state welcome the enforcement of the Zainab Alert, Recovery and Response Bill.
Under the new law, offenders will be sentenced to at least 10 years behind bars, up to a maximum of life imprisonment.
Additionally, the government will set up a helpline and the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency, which will issue alerts on missing children and maintain an online database.
Due to previous instances of police inaction, lethargy and insensitivity in handling such cases, they will now be required to register an FIR within two hours of receiving a complaint by parents, while special courts will ensure a trial is completed within three months.
Despite repeated assertions by family members for a public hanging, the intensity of punishment does not have any impact on criminal behavior.
For instance, the hanging of Imran Ali in the Kasur rape and serial killing case has failed to bring down child abuse cases anywhere in the country.
There has been a marked rise in such incidents particularly in Karachi and Punjab but no one seems to have a solution.
Children have been abused in Karachi and Punjab every day but institutions and the government ignore them. How long will this oppression continue?
In my opinion, instead of moving towards new laws the implementation of existing child protection laws and the strict performance of police regarding the child abuse cases are the need of the hour.
The existing law on child abuse in Pakistan is also not satisfactory at all, as it leaves the victim at the mercy of the police, an agency that is responsible for looking after a variety of crimes.
Marwah Zainab and several victims were the daughter and sons of the nation, entire civil society organizations, government and political parties to come to their aid.
Steps must be taken to improve awareness about such issues seminars should be organized for parents. Additionally, it is also essential to train parents and children so that they can properly respond to such threats.
The current government should focus on finding out ways that may help to ensure the security of every child in rural as well as urban areas of Pakistan.