Who can forget Zainab, the 7-year-old child who was brutally raped and murdered? Her lifeless body was found in the garbage dump just behind her own house. Zainab is just one of those victims.
According to the reports published by a local NGO Sahil, nearly 11 children are sexually abused every day in Pakistan. The problem children face have an immense impact on their health and well-being. Most child sexual abuse victims are either abducted or manipulated into the situation by someone they know. Examples of these are the recent spike in the abduction, rape, and often murder of these kids from various parts of the country.
Crimes like these take a very gruesome turn when perpetrators sexually assault these kids in a brutal way, often in the form of gang rape, for a pornographic media that is to be uploaded on the “dark web”. Both male and female children are subject to this sexual violence every day and unfortunately a significant percentage of these kids, girls, are the ones who are forced into child marriages.
There is cultural expectation and understanding that these incidents are not talked about lest it will bring shame to the family. These kids are often not even taken for a medical exam or hospitals for treatment unless they are in a very severe life threatening state. The reason is the same, people will ask questions and/or it will be shameful for the family and the child.
This problem children face is prevalent in the areas where people with few to no proper financial means live, have a strong hold of feudal lords or a political figure coupled with a corrupt police force.
Many children who get out alive of this trauma have no proper medical or mental health facilities, or any rehabilitation programmes available to get these kids and their families a proper relief. Furthermore, little to no legal representation is being offered or provided to these victims for any legal recourse available to them. After speaking with several victims, Blackstone School of Law, Law Clinic also found out that some of these victims who actually engaged a lawyer, were severely affected adversely by the incompetence and malfeasance of the engaged attorneys who were working for and with the accused behind the scenes. This corruption and sheer disregard for justice and rule of law resulted in the acquittal of several perpetrators. Moreover, Pakistan lacks proper legislation that aligns with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) and the government organisations that are working for children do not have prevention and eradication of sexual abuse of children in Pakistan on their agenda.
Blackstone School of Law established its Law Clinic in 2017 and took over a few dozen Kasur cases after the Zainab murder case came to light. During the process it was clear as a day that prosecution doesn’t do its job properly and it is evident from the ongoing trials from Kasur that the Blackstone Law Clinic handles, that multiple procedural and legal issues have prevented a proper legal representation for these victims. This corruption and sheer disregard for justice and rule of law results in the acquittal of perpetrators.
There is a severe lack of: 1) officially available data; 2) platforms for victim support activities; 3) society in general and especially children awareness programmes for the prevention of these crimes; 4) none-to-little legal aid available to these victims and their families; 5) no platforms or not availed platforms for community regarding these issues to create awareness; 6) no platform for proper reporting of this issues, data collection or helplines; 7) lack of legislation and legislative reforms and; 8) no proper collaboration between related departments.
Earlier this year, the report presented on this issue in the National Assembly of Pakistan, quoted the numbers that were provided by a private NGO. Speaking with the National Assembly spokesperson, a very disappointing situation was explained to me in a very detailed manner. There is a long process to collect data from one police station to the other, and there is no uniform system where all reports of this sort are to be registered or entered into. Henceforth, even the reports in National Assembly of Pakistan have to rely on the private data which is not just counter-productive but also dangerous. It does not give any proper picture of the problem resulting in the false analysis which leads to insufficient or no measures or legal reforms that could eliminate the problem.
In the next issue I will put forward the specific challenges we are facing in tackling this problem, suggestions and the measures Blackstone School of Law, Law Clinic has taken to bring the legal reforms on this issue to eradicate this problem from our society.
PC: Blackstone School of law, law clinic
(To Be Continued...)