FROM a trickle to a flood, the horrific details of the child pornography case in Husain Khanwala village in Punjab’s Kasur district are spilling out in the media.
Some facts remain to be ascertained: for example, how many victims there actually are, and what led to the racket being exposed now, several years after the alleged abuse first began to take place. What is clear is that a number of children, if not hundreds, were victims of this reprehensible crime.
According to news reports, these boys and girls – some younger than 14 years – were repeatedly preyed upon by a gang of paedophiles over a number of years and their sexual violation filmed.
The perpetrators then blackmailed the victims and their families into paying them large sums of money in exchange for not making the videos public. Nevertheless, it is being reported that several such films are in circulation.
The outrage that the case has elicited in the country, particularly following what appeared as attempts by official quarters in the Punjab administration to either downplay it or deny it outright, has prompted the government to issue strong statements promising “exemplary punishment” for those found guilty.
Needless to say, there must be accountability. And not only of those who perpetrated these ghastly acts but also of those who, once again, illustrated how access to justice in this country is leveraged on influence and connections. However, overlooked amidst all the sensational coverage is the very real imperative for the victims’ identities to be scrupulously protected.
These young people must have suffered profound psychological damage from the experiences they have endured. While it must be cathartic for them to be able to at last bring their tales of horror into the open and thereby have a chance at seeing their tormentors’ punished, their long-term recovery can only be possible away from the glare of the media, in privacy, and with extended counselling.
In a society where child abuse has traditionally been a taboo subject, there is little understanding of this in the general public.
Nevertheless, one expects politicians to show some sensitivity and refrain from making political capital out of this tragedy by posing for photo ops with the victims.
The government, while doing all it can to get to the truth behind the whole sordid business and the speculation surrounding its details, must ensure that the victims’ well-being is not lost in the din.