LAHORE: Minor children -- both girls and boys -- are falling prey to paedophiles in the provincial capital as the incidents of child sexual abuse continue to surface here and most of such criminals escape conviction because of poor investigation by police and flawed prosecution.

Such crimes are on the rise despite Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar taking suo motu notice of Kasur rape cases.

The alarmingly high official figures of cases of sexual assault on minors in Lahore show that such crimes have not been a priority for the police high-ups.

Details of these show that minors are mostly targeted by paedophiles in playgrounds, streets, markets and shops in congested localities.

According to psychiatrists, the effects of sexual abuse in childhood keep haunting the victims throughout their life, adversely impacting their physical and mental health.

A majority of them, they say, suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and other psychological issues. Many victims prefer to spend life in isolation, avoiding contact with relatives, friends and class fellows, the experts say. Some of the victims themselves become abusers when they grow up, they add.

According to official data, total 77 cases of rape of minor girls were reported in the provincial capital from January 2018 to the first week of August this year.

Most of such cases surfaced in the Cantonment Division of the city, where 31 minor girls were subjected to rape, followed by Model Town and city divisions where 16 and 12 cases were reported, respectively.

Similarly, 11 such cases were lodged in Saddar, five in Civil Lines and two cases in Iqbal Town division, the data showed.

Out of the total 77 cases, the police quashed eight because of “lack of evidence”, while the remaining were pending in courts.

The situation is also equally abysmal in the cases where the minor boys were subjected to criminal assault.

According to the police data, total 79 boys suffered sexual assault in various parts of the city during the same period. In most of the cases, the boys were abducted when they were playing in the street or going to local shops in residential areas.

Most of these cases (25) were again reported in the Cantonment Division, followed by Saddar (20) and Model Town (17).

Other divisions where these cases were reported include Iqbal Town (eight), City (six) and Civil Lines (three). The data showed that eight out of the total 79 cases were quashed by police owing to “lack of evidence” or other reasons.

Shockingly, none of the suspects in both categories (boys, girls) of these cases have so far been convicted. The official figures reveal that in all the 141 cases the accused secured bail from courts.

On the other hand, police sources say that since most of the victims belong to poor families, many cases of child sex abuse go unreported in the city.

They say that in many cases the police concerned are reluctant to lodge FIRs to avoid criticism by the media, civil society and authorities concerned.

Operations DIG Shahzad Akbar says he believes in zero tolerance for the offenders targeting minor children for sexual satisfaction.

“I regard them as animals, and the protection of the innocent souls (children) is my prime responsibility,” he says.

He says a proposal is being considered to establish a special cell to deal with this heinous crime in the provincial capital in order to bring such criminals in the dock for exemplary punishments.

The city police will also come up with more plans to eliminate paedophiles, Mr Akbar says.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2018

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