LAHORE: Every day more than 11 children under the age of 18 fall prey to sexual abuse, according to a report by non-government organisation Sahil.

On Tuesday, the body of an eight-year-old girl, of Kot Road in Kasur, was discovered in a heap of garbage. She had gone missing on Jan 5 while returning home from the nearby tuition centre.

Police said DNA samples from the victim’s body have been dispatched for forensic testing. Police have dubbed the murder a serial killing, but are not ruling out rape. Further information will be available once an autopsy report is issued.

In 2016, 4,139 incidents of child abuse took place where 43 percent of the survivors were acquainted with the criminals, while 16 percent of the reported cases showed family members as the perpetrator.In the Kasur incident, the deceased girl’s CCTV footage shows that the child was not forcibly taken away. Instead, she is seen walking with the man hand in hand as if she placed implicit trust in him.

“Despite the fact that so many sexual abuse cases have taken place in Kasur last year and even before that, we find that a seven-year-old girl is still walking by herself to the tuition centre,” says Rashida Qureshi, Child Advocacy Network official.

“At the same time, it is a trend in Pakistan that no education is given to children to assess a potentially dangerous person or situation,” she says, adding that when it comes to taking care of your children, parents should not trust anyone else.

“In Pakistan, the concept of community policing is rare if not absent,” she says.

Also, sex education, or reproductive health, continues to be taken as taboo subjects not just by society’s hardline faction, but also by parents themselves.

“We tried to introduce a course on these issues, but parents protested and we had no choice but to wrap up the programme,” says a teacher in a private school. “But I ask these parents: would you prefer to leave your child ignorant, and pose a threat to their security? Maybe if the Kasur girl knew better she would have raised alarm, or run away from that man.”Lawyer Ali Imran says that hundreds of children are sexually abused for long periods of time, especially in schools or madaris. He says there is sexual frustration in society for the mixing of the genders is not encouraged.

Then again, our children are used to being touched by all kinds of people – which may or may not be sexual, but sometimes it is unwanted. In such a setting, rape by someone they know is not surprising at all, he says.

As Law Minister Rana Sanaullah blames parents to be responsible for such a tragedy, he forgets that he himself was the convener of the Committee for Protection of Child Rights, says activist Iftikhar Mubarik. “It was formed in 2015 after the child pornography case in Kasur and one of its recommendations was that a life skill-based programme must be taught to young people where they know how to handle external pressure, and they have knowledge about their bodies. However, none of the recommendations has been implemented.”

In the 18th amendment, it is the provincial government’s responsibility to draft a child protection policy, however, no policy document exists.

Mumtaz Mughal, from the Aurat Foundation, says the incompetent investigation of such crimes leaves so many loopholes. “The perpetrators have no fear of doing anything like this,” she says.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2018