Reported cases of child abuse increased by 11 per cent in year 2018 compared to 2017, with more than 10 children suffering some form of abuse every day in Pakistan last year, a report released by the NGO Sahil has revealed.
The report released on Wednesday found that a total of 3,832 child abuse cases were reported by newspapers in all four provinces as well as Islamabad, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. In comparison, 3,445 such incidents were reported from January to December 2017.
- 3,832 cases of child abuse reported in 2018
- 33pc rise seen in child sexual abuse cases
- Girls found to be more vulnerable between ages 0-5 and 16-18
- Boys found to be more vulnerable between ages 6-10 and 11-15
- Most child abuse cases reported from Punjab, followed by Sindh and KP
The report, titled 'Cruel Numbers 2018', has been compiled by monitoring 85 regional and national newspapers, and from the cases that have been reported. Sahil has been releasing the report for the past 18 years in collated form.
Read: When is the right time to start talking to children about sexual abuse?
Of the total reported 3,832 cases, 55 per cent of the victims were girls while 45pc were boys.
The total figure includes 2,327 cases of child sexual abuse alone, with 51pc of the cases involving female children and 49pc male children. According to the report, data shows that cases of child sexual abuse specifically witnessed a rise of a significant 33pc when compared with the reported cases of 2017.
However, the trend of more girls being the victims than boys in abuse cases was not consistent in all categories; the report found that girls were more vulnerable to child sexual abuse than boys in the age brackets of 0-5 years and 16-18 years while boys were found to be more vulnerable to sexual abuse in the age brackets of 6-10 years and 11-15 years.
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Sahil attributed this phenomenon to the tendency in South Asian cultures to to keep girls indoors and prohibit them from socialisation as a way of preventing any incidence of sexual abuse, which in turn can make them more vulnerable to incest. Boys, on the other hand, are thought to be not facing any threats and "this understanding eventually puts boys in a more vulnerable situation, especially when minor boys are sent to shops to buy grocery or to deliver something in the neighbourhood."
The total figure of 3,832 crimes against children includes 923 reported cases of abduction, 589 of sodomy, 537 of rape, 452 of missing children, 345 of attempted rape, 282 of gang sodomy, 156 of gang rape and 99 cases of child marriages.
According to the report, 2018 saw sodomy cases rise by 61pc and rape cases by 15pc as compared to 2017.
Like the previous years, a majority (72pc) of the child abuse cases in 2018 took place in rural areas and 28pc in urban areas. Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad (in that order) topped the list of the 10 most vulnerable districts in the country.
The cases of murder after sexual abuse decreased by 16pc (92) as compared to the 109 cases reported in 2017.
The report found that most of the perpetrators knew the family or the children and are ranked the highest in the list of abusers. Out of the total reported cases, there were 1,787 cases where the abusers were acquainted with the child or his/her family. Strangers abusing the children were involved in 410 cases.
The year 2018 had begun with the horrific rape and murder of six-year-old girl Zainab Ansari — a case which uncharacteristically sparked widespread outrage and protests across the country after the minor's body was found in a trash heap in Kasur on January 9.
The heinous nature of the crime had seen immediate riots break out in Kasur — in which two people were killed — while #JusticeforZainab became a rallying cry for an end to violence against children.
Imran Ali, who was convicted for Zainab's rape and murder, was executed nine months after the child's death.
One of the authors of Sahil's previous report, Mamtaz Gohar, had told Dawn that although child abuse cases were expected to fall in the wake of the Zainab rape and murder case, they had unfortunately increased.
“However, another view is that the Zainab murder case gave victims’ families courage to speak out rather than hide incidents of sexual abuse. The good thing is that, soon after that case, a drastic change has been noticed in the attitude and behaviour of families towards such cases,” he had said.