Preventing Child Abuse

Zainab’s case has proved to be a catalyst for exposing many other cases of child abuse. The question is- is the state responding with as much urgency as the occurrences of these instances?

The National Assembly (NA) on Friday passed a resolution to form a 10-member special committee to look into child abuse cases for curbing such crimes by making full use of legal remedies, effective investigation and speedy prosecution.

On the same day that the NA formed the committee, two more cases of child sexual abuse and abduction were reported in Dir and Hafizabad. As the unceasing line of new such cases are showing, the problem has always been there, we are just paying attention to it more.

The depth of this issue bellies the meager efforts of a small committee of the NA with the vague task of “looking into child abuse cases”. Tackling this problem requires fundamental changes with how we police such cases, how we use medical and DNA testing in a reliable – and sensitive – manner, how we prosecute and punish offenders, and how we create preventive measures in society. The NA body – while a good initiative – however is merely conducting executive oversight on the investigations into the child abuse cases, not looking at ways to fix the system.

The shadow of the Kasur child abuse victims have harboured over this case, reminding us how easy it is to raise outcry, and then forget about the issue. The uproar over the Zainab case, too, will die away once a few high-profile cases are closed, but the same mechanisms will remain. This is why the NA needs to deploy more of its resources to tackle this problem; task the law ministry with the job of suggesting legislation, reach out to stakeholders – such as NGOs – which have already compiled extensive reform proposals and engage the MNAs into debate that leads to legislation. A measly ad-hoc committee without many powers is not going to cut it.

Zainab’s brutal rape and murder was not a rarity of cases; it was the factor that deflected light on the prevailing instances of child sexual abuse in the country. NGOs estimate almost eleven children are sexually abused in Pakistan every day; our NA needs to implement some deep-rooted reforms to challenge the abusive culture that prevails in our legal system which allows this abuse to happen- or else, Zainab too will become just another statistic.

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