The alarming rise in child abuse

Not only must awareness be spread, but children encouraged to speak

Child abuse is an unreported but alarming issue in every civilized society. Half of the children across the world exposed to violence and survivors’ trauma, along with its consequences, are commonly obscured from the public view. In this era of globalization, there is a need for designating time to educate and empower the most vulnerable segments of society, children against abuse from strangers and their teachers and relatives. Decades of research shows how negative childhood events such as abuse or neglect can have a detrimental impact on a person’s long term physical and mental health. It has been linked to rapid ageing,ht chronic diseases and even premature deaths. Pakistan has its history of reacting to problems ex post facto. Child abuse is classical example of poor anticipation of Pakistan of different social evils. Child abuse is widely prevalent but rarely recognized as a social problem in Pakistan.

According to the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse (ISPCAN), overall ust41.69 percent respondents were sexually abused in one form or another. Experience of child abuse is reported more frequently by boys than girls. According to Sahil’s report, the total number of reported child abuse cases across the country jumped to 2960 in 2020 from 2486 cases in 2019, showing an increase of four percent. More than eight children were abused daily on average in 2020, according to data compiled by Sahil on child sexual abuse cases reported in newspapers across the country. What is more, according to a recently published retrospective study by Abbas and Jabeen (2020) on the prevalence of child abuse in Pakistan conducted with equal number of male and female respondents 41 percent (44 percent males and 39 percent females) of respondents reported facing at least one form of sexual abuse during childhood.

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There are numerous reasons for this. The most pertinent is a poor parent-child relationship. We live in a society where fear and cultural taboos make it difficult to uncover cases of abuse. Parents’ unwillingness to subject their children to the medico-legal process is also a deterrent. A lack of support from family members, friends and neighbours or the community leads to the isolation of the victim, making him hesitant to share his experience about his abuser. Besides other factors responsible for child abuse are socio-economic stresses; unemployment, low self-confidence and feelings of incompetence, loneliness, and psychological unrest are the leading factors behind the prevalence of child abuse in the society.

Even before Zainab case, child sexual abuse was widely prevalent but rarely reported. The Zainab case accentuated the need to cure the menace of child abuse. After the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and completion of the devolution process in 2011, the provinces are responsible The Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) was to be established on the pattern of Amber Alert to inform public and enforcement agencies to recover a missing child through One Window operations. Recently, the Punjab Police launched an app through Pukkar 15 calls at the police station and service centres, which is a remarkable steps to curb the issue of child abuse.

It is the need of the hour that the policymakers of Pakistan put their utmost focus on curbing this menace and providing security and peace to the children of Pakistan. The existing apparatus require reforms for safeguarding the permanent value of chastity enshrined in the Holy Quran. Let us hope for the better future of children in Pakistan.

Although the above mentioned steps are important strides in the right direction, yet more is needed. Some target-oriented and sharply focused steps for the eradication of child abuse are extremely important. One of the most important ways of stopping child abuse is to trace it in the first place. Children tend to suffer in silence, hence it is necessary to ask them to open up and share. There is a dire need to give the child freedom to express his or her feelings without any fear. There is a need to educate children about the good touch and the bad touch. The media should play its pivotal role to spread awareness and sensitize the people about this evil. National and provincial legislatures need to review existing child protection laws while reforming the existing apparatus. The government must recognize seminars and workshops in education institutions to sensitize the children and parents about it. This Ministry of Human Rights should play its vital role to revamp the national child protection center to identify, prevent and report issue of child abuse.

Every child deserves a safe childhood and this is an achievable goal. It is high time to save the children from this scourge of abuse. It is hoped that the government will translate its vision of providing children with safe childhood into action.

It is the need of the hour that the policymakers of Pakistan put their utmost focus on curbing this menace and providing security and peace to the children of Pakistan. The existing apparatus require reforms for safeguarding the permanent value of chastity enshrined in the Holy Quran. Let us hope for the better future of children in Pakistan.

Sajjad Hussain Nekokara
The writer is a lawyer, and can be reached at [email protected]

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