Children of the nation

27 Sep 2020

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EACH day brings new sorrow. On Friday, a minor boy’s lifeless body was discovered inside a cloth bag by residents of Karachi’s Federal B Area. The child had gone missing the evening before. Instead of reporting to the police, however, the area’s residents took matters into their own hands. While searching for the boy, they came across a neighbour carrying a cloth bag, and found the child’s body inside it. Doctors confirmed the parents’ worst nightmare: the boy had been subjected to sexual abuse before he was murdered. Prior to this, the rape and murder of five-year-old Marwah in Karachi’s Old Sabzi Mandi area sparked a wave of anger and protests. Her burnt body was found on a garbage heap by police two days after she went missing, reigniting memories of Zainab Ansari of Kasur, whose murder led to the creation of the Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Act, 2020. The law aims to save missing and abducted children through the setting up of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency, which will maintain a database, work closely with the 1099 helpline, and send alerts on various print and electronic mediums whenever a child goes missing.

According to NGO Sahil’s most recent report, over eight children were sexually abused each day on average in the first six months of this year. The majority of cases were reported from rural Pakistan (62pc). Punjab reported the highest number (57pc), followed by Sindh (32pc) and KP (6pc). Between January and June 2020, 173 children were gang-raped; and 38 were murdered by their tormentors. Given that these figures only reflect the cases that make it to the newspapers — in a country where it is still taboo to speak about such things and victims are apprehensive about approaching the police — the sheer number of unheard and unspoken stories would give anyone with a conscience sleepless nights. Physical and sexual abuse towards children is widespread, both within and outside the ‘safety’ of the home.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2020