Child sexual abuse is the most prevalent social issue in almost all countries of the world but the ratio of occurrence of this problem is higher in developing countries where it is found in wide range due to the high rate of poverty, negligence of parents, high population growth rate and lack of proper policies or laws of child protection in our country.
If we follow some statistics we will come to know that Pakistan’s 170 million inhabitants make it the 6th largest country in the world by population; this population is growing at an average annual rate of 2.3 percent (The World Bank, 2011). It is a comparatively young population, comprising 37 percent people below the age of 14 years (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 2011). ). According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately half of the Pakistan’s population is below the age of 18 years (2011). Sexual abuse cases tend to be more prevalent in lower middle, working class and poor areas including both urban and rural population. According to a report of well know NGO SAHIL in the year 2011, that there is increase of 2.26 percent in sexual crimes against children from the previous year (SAHIL, 2011). On average, eight children a day were abused during 2012. The data shows that 71 per cent of the children who suffered abuse were girls. The age group most vulnerable to sexual abuse among girls and boys was 11 to 15 years.
Pakistani children are facing number of protection issues including threats to very survival and development in the form of neglect and deprivation, physical and sexual abuse, and economic exploitation. Pakistan is home to 1.5 million street children in which 90% become victim of child sexual abuse, this shows that children wondering in streets are at greater risk of being sexually abused and it is also lamenting that incidents of child sexual abuse and its prevalence are very difficult to enumerate in absolute terms.
Children are considered as most innocent creature of God and flowers of heaven we feel specific joy and happiness through their innocence, but when these flowers are smashed by the cruel humans or become the victim of cruelty of mankind then these innocent flowers do not know what is happening with them, they are wholly unaware of the consequences of this cruelty on their mantel, physical and emotional health.
Child sexual abuse in Pakistan is rife from the last few years and this ratio of sexual abuse is higher among children. According to a survey four million children in the country are forced to work from an early age due to the high poverty and of those more than a million live on the streets where they become easy target of those people who are engaged in doing different types of immoral and unethical acts including child sexual abuse. It is also assessed that the occurrences of abuse and violence against children are so pervasive that every child is at risk of becoming a victim of sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse is such a crime committed by human action that is prescribed, proximate and preventable.
According to a report the number of child sexual abuse is 3,002 cases that took place in 2013, Out of which the total assaults, in 1,474 instances an acquaintance was the perpetrator, followed by strangers (1,067 cases). Other abusers were relatives (85), neighbor (74), incest (70), and some others (110).It is analyzed that incidents of child sexual abuse took place within family surroundings are not being reported because people thought that if they reveal that incident of child sexual abuse took place in family it will threaten the social status of family in society.
The factor which is contributing as a major cause of increasing child sexual abuse is family background or family economic conditions, it is estimated that poverty rate is considered as back bone in exploiting child’s socialization and providing them with basic needs but when due to large number of family members and less economic resources forces children towards doing illegal activities while searching for a work to fulfill their basic needs due to which they sometimes indulge in different criminal acts where they have exposure with people from different criminal groups who use such children for sexual activities by giving them greed of money above than their expectations where they become victim of sexual abuse.
There are also number of children who become victim of child abuse while working as maids or baby sitters where they are sexually and physically abused by their owners several times but they cannot share it with their parents or relatives due to the threat of being killed or beaten by their owners due to which there are several cases of child sexual abuse remained unreported and this ratio of child sexual abuse is higher among female children working at homes than male children, on the other hand there is a category of children who become victim of child sexual abuse at their own homes. It is general perception that home is the safest to live in because at home you live among those people you know from your time of birth but cruelty finds his way among those people whom you know very well, it is estimated that large number of children are being sexually abused at their own homes by their relatives including those with whom they have blood relations. There are some cases found in which daughter is being abused by their own father and brothers this is extreme form of cruelty.
This cruelty does not end here because situation is even worse at societal level where there is a wide range of children including male and female, there are children who work as child laborers at different places where they easily become victim of child sexual abuse by their employers which have negative impact on their mental, physical and emotional health. It is also analyzed that impact of child sexual abuse is worse on female child as compared to male child although both sexes are affected, badly.
Children become victim of child sexual abuse at wide range because they are very innocent, people have easy access to threaten and manipulate them. It is also said that child sexual abuse plays vital role in deforming society’s moral and emotional health, on the other hand we cannot deny the impact of child’s sexual abuse which have significant harms on children throughout stages of his/her life and it is difficult to survive for such children in society. Although physical injury of child sexual abuse can be healed over time but its psychological and medical consequences have long lasting impacts that can persist through adulthood.
Pakistan’s child protection system is still in its initial stages because there are no proper laws for child protection which can provide them their required rights at social, economic and moral grounds. If we look at the global phenomena there are several developed nations that had adopted strict measures to save their children from such incidents. Our government should take effective action to introduce such laws and policies in existing legislation that can not only protect innocent children from becoming victim of child sexual abuse but can also drag such people toward courts who are engaged in doing such shameful acts.
The situation is worse in our country for providing child protection because there is no central database or child protection register to record and assess the magnitude of the problem. There are several NGO’s who are contributing at larger level for protecting such children who become victim of child sexual abuse but if we want to abolish this problem from grass root level then state party should take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse. If we look at Convention of the Rights of Child (CRC) which is considered as milestone for protecting child rights at international level, Pakistan has also signed and ratified this convention, it is considered the failure of our present ruling parties who are still not aware of the need of introducing effective legislative, administrative and other measures for ensuring the child rights with regard to economic, social and cultural rights.
It is need of the hour that child molestation should be acknowledged as not a domestic problem but a social problem. In our country there exists no monitoring bodies to investigate complaints on any level within the country and there is a shocking lack of awareness as regards this issue; however people considered it immoral to talk about these issues like child sexual abuse. There is a need to spread awareness among common people through public or private sectors so that they can become more aware regarding these issues. For this purpose media should be involved to launch campaign for awareness for highlighting such vital issues. Preventing violence against children and delivering justice is a challenging task, on the other hand children who become victim of sexual abuse are waiting for justice so that they can live their life with pride and honor in country like other children.
(The writer has recently done her masters in MSc in Sociology from University of the Punjab. She is a researcher and engaged in social work and working for to help those who are neglected and deprived of their basic rights particularly marginalized communities like women, children and religious minorities and working for the empowerment of youth. She lives in Lahore and can be reached at email@example.com)