Does the emotional and physical vulnerability of children makes them worthy of being horrifically manipulated, physically abused and atrociously murdered? Does it make it justifiable for them to be the brutal targets to the vile satiation of pedophiles? Does it reduces them to trash that is to be dumped in rubbish pits by predators, preying on their innocence and naivety, since the state as well as the society failed to shield them by providing them security? The recent case of horrendous physical abuse and subsequent killing of seven year old girl Zainab in Kasur followed by another grim incident of a five year old minor in Karachi allegedly assaulted by the school guard, immediately raises these questions to which just no explication is possible.

According to Sahil, an NGO, working towards the eradication of child sexual abuse, each day eleven children are physically abused in Pakistan. This is indeed disturbing since it accounts for only the reported cases of child abuse in Pakistan, with others being unreported and hastily shoved under the covers for fear of social castigation, judgement, victim blaming and shaming. Sadly, little headway has been made in child protection affairs since 2015, when the country’s biggest child sexual abuse scandal surfaced, something that had been going on since 2009 but could not make it to the mainstream headlines due to the coercion to silence and suppression of the victims and their families.

The grim dynamics of child abuse in Pakistan unravels the hard truth of the state as well as the society being equally complicit in the silent suffering of its children population. The states complicity is manifested in not only in its failure to ensure protection for the most vulnerable of its segments that is its children, but also towards the lax posturing of law enforcement agencies which have recurrently failed to arrest, let alone prosecute child predators and pedophiles. In Zainab’s case, despite the fact that her family members reported her sudden absence at the local police station, little heed was taken by the police officials to search for the missing girl, whose frail dead body was later recovered from a dumpster. On the other hand, the society’s complicity verges on its general denial of such episodes of abuse and in its convenient castigation and mortification of abuse victims.

The surge in child abuse cases in Pakistan requires that effective measures are resorted to clamp down spine-chilling cases of child abuse and pedophiliac activities destroying the future generation of the country, which in other words also mandates putting an end to criminal complicity exhibited both by the state and the society in general. For this fore mostly of all precedential punishment needs to be accorded to the accused at hand. The fact that most pedophiles, playing with the lives of little children move about scot-free is a testimony to the gravity of the situation at hand. Drawing a leaf from neighbor Iran’s book that accords capital punishment to pedophiles to relieve the general populace’s “troubled minds” and to “restore the citizen’s sense of security”, and last year executed forty two year old man Esmail Jafarzadeh , involved in the brutal murder and assault of seven years old girl Atena Aslani, Pakistan too needs to follow the course since such despicable pedophiliac instances demand harsh repercussions.

Secondly, the federal and provincial government’s failure in implementing the laws related to violence against children, as the National Commission on the Rights of Child Bill and Criminal Laws Amendment Bill, manifests the callousness of the government in clamping down episodes of flagrancy against children. With effective laws in place, but still waiting to be implemented, combating child abuse is a far-fetched dream.

Thirdly, the much awaited recommendation by the Child Rights Movement (CRM) on the establishment of the independent National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) has although been partially implemented in the form of the passage of the National Commission on the Rights of Child Act 2017, however proceedings are still to be taken to institute and operationalize the NCRC and to allocate adequate fiscal support for its functionality to monitor the status of child rights in the country. Until this is not done, many children will continue to suffer in silence all because of governmental apathy.

Moreover, it needs to be realized that abuse thrives in an environment of silence and ignorance. The general denial of child abuse and its ironic pervasiveness simply suggests that countering it involves, talking about it more often, to not only raise awareness but to accept the fact that it exists and mandates robust actions in its curtailment. Choosing to conceal such realities by keeping mum about them would only propel its perpetrators to continue engaging in it, since few would dare to even allude to it.

Furthermore, child abuse can be effectively targeted if preventive measures are resorted to in place of reactionary ones. In this context, it is incumbent upon parents, the primary caregivers of a child to provide for their emotional as well as physical security. Parents need to concern themselves with the activities, movements and interactions of their children. Leaving them unattended, without imparting them an awareness of good and bad adult behavior, parents do grave injustice to their children, which in most of the cases results in tarnishing the physical as well as the psychological selves of children. Such children despite falling victim to abuse, either do not know about it and do not articulate it or fear misjudgment from their very own parents, carrying the wrongful burden of blame against their tender hearts and minds.

Lastly, it is pertinent for schools which come across as secondary seats of learning of children to introduce courses on grave concerns as child abuse and the preventive measures mandated to counter it. This is to familiarize the children with its pervasion and to enable them to voice up and report any apprehensive or pervert adult behavior they might encounter. Wrongfully associating cultural and religious dogmas with plausible changes in school syllabi, which are essentially aimed at spreading awareness on abuse, is contentiously fueling the existent surge in child abuse cases

It needs to be duly realized that no child’s childhood warrants to be punctuated with untold incidents of grief, shock and vehemence No child should have to fight for his right to security and peace. No child deserves to live a life of perpetual fear and castigation. These children are our collective responsibility, the provision of whose security should never come at callous costs. Our reticence in child abuse cases today, makes us complicit to the abuse, depriving many from a normal childhood, and a chance for life itself. Let it not jilt an innocent soul, let it not scar her with marks that would never fade, let it not distort her faith in humanity itself, even before she has explored and experienced life.

 

The author is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. She has a profound interest in Local and Global politics, English Literature and Psychology.