Child abuse: Cruel numbers, toothless laws

Updated August 12, 2015

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LAHORE: Child abuse cases are taking alarming proportions and adversely affecting the individuals, families as well as the whole society but there is a dearth of laws and bodies to check such incidents and rehabilitate the victims.

Sahil, an organisation working on child abuse cases, compiles data referring it as “cruel numbers” from national and local newspapers to keep the children’s sexual abuse issue alive in the domain of the child protection dialogue. The children, who survive the abuse, often experience guilt, shame, and self-blame.

The latest child abuse case reported from Kasur tells that some 380 children, including girls, have been sexually abused since 2009 but neither any victim nor their families reported the case with police or media.

The “cruel numbers” says that some 3,002 child sexual abuse cases were reported in 2013 and 3,508 in 2014 from across the country. The increase in registration of child abuse cases is being attributed to the educational and mass media awareness campaigns on the subject.

However, Punjab police’s data says that during 2013, some 1,106 sodomy and 153 hurt cases were reported. As many as 99 murders and 68 attempted murder cases against children were also reported in the year. Moreover, 489 children were kidnapped, while 17 children were abducted for ransom.

During the first six months of 2015, the police data shows that 577 sodomy and 45 hurt cases were reported in Punjab besides 35 murders and 20 attempted murder cases. It has also been reported that 239 children were kidnapped, while 10 children were abducted for ransom during the same period.

Lahore Deputy Inspector General of Police Sultan Chaudhry says no consolidated data on child abuse cases is available neither with the government nor any non-governmental organisation. The cases reported with the police are also not reflective of the on ground situation because the allegations are later probed and medical reports obtained to verify the allegations.

Child Rights Movement spokesperson Iftikhar Mubarak says the number of child abuse cases are increasing because there is no concrete policy or plan of action to curb such cases.

He regrets that a child protection policy initiated by the Punjab Social Welfare Department has been lying pending with the Planning and Development Department for the past two years. It says the child abuse cases neither fall under the Social Welfare Department nor the Child Protection Bureau, which functions under its “The Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act”.

Mr Mubarak suggested that the government establish a department or an independent authority to holistically deal with child abuse cases and protection of children from all kinds of abuses.

He said the National Assembly was also supposed to adopt two amendment bills – Criminal Law Amendment Bill and The National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill.

Besides improving laws and empowering authorities to check the child abuse cases, Mr Mubarak also suggested, that the capacity building of parents and teachers was also equally important to educate children about abuses and possible defence.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2015

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