The media attention the rape and murder of Zainab garnered earlier this year should have been a watershed moment on the grave issue of child abuse in Pakistan. However, unfortunately there seems little improvement with regards to the issue. There is still little realization regarding the gravity of the problem.
According to a recent newspaper report, no less than 12 child abuse cases have so far surfaced in Kasur district since the rape and murder of Zainab. Dozens of similar incidents have been reported in others parts of the country as well. On last Saturday and Sunday, six more minors were allegedly abused in separate cases in Kasur taking the tally of reported child abuse victims since the start of the year to eighteen. One can well imagine how rampant the issue of child abuse is when one small city in Punjab under the spotlight of media keeps producing these cases almost every week. These incidents are not isolated incidents but in fact represent the harrowing conditions that every child in the country has to go through.
If these cases were enough to jolt us from our slumber, the incident in Chichawatni must. During the week an eight-year-old girl from Chichawatni was burnt alive after allegedly being raped.
A report compiled by NGO Sahil has revealed that over nine children were subjected to sexual violence daily nationwide in 2017. Cruel Numbers-2017 paints a distressing portrait of the phenomenon. Statistics presented in the document showed prevalence of child sexual abuse continued to persist, refuting lofty government claims of better child protection standards nationwide. Collating cases reported across 91 newspapers, the report revealed 3,445 children had been subjected to sexual violence across the nation in 2017. This represents an annual decrease of 694 cases, the report said. The number of murders following child abduction and sexual abuse surged over the year, according to the report. Reported incidence recorded an over 100% rise, increasing from seven in 2016 to 15 in 2017.
The numbers are beyond harrowing and worryingly child abuse remains a taboo topic in society. Unless we as a society realize that we have a real problem on our hands which is destroying our children, we won’t move towards a solution. The government, all stakeholders and the society in general need to accept that child abuse is rampant in the country and something needs to be done to stop it. The criminal negligence shown by the government and the society in general means that children in our country remain vulnerable.