ISLAMABAD: The data compiled by Sahil shows that 11 children were abused every day in 2023, with mostly acquaintances and relatives involved in the heinous act. The statistics were reported in ‘Cruel Numbers 2023,’ a signature publication of Sahil, an NGO working for the welfare of children, launched on Thursday with the support of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR).

The report said that in 2023, a total number of 4,213 child abuse cases had been reported from all four provinces as well as the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). The total number of cases included reported cases of child sexual abuse, cases of abduction, cases of missing children, and child marriages.

A gender-divide analysis of the data showed that out of the total reported cases, 2,251 (53 per cent) of victims were girls and 1,962 (47 per cent) were boys. The reported age showed that children were most vulnerable to abuse in the age group of 6-15 years, in which more cases of boys than girls were reported.

Moreover, children as young as 0-5 years were also sexually abused. The abuser’s category of Cruel Numbers 2023 indicated that acquaintances were still the most involved in child sexual abuse, along with relatives, family members, strangers and women abettors.

Geographical divide

The geographical divide statistics show that out of the total 4,213 reported cases, 75pc were reported from Punjab, 13pc cases from Sindh, 7pc cases from Islamabad capital territory, 3pc cases from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and 2pc cases from Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

Speaking on this occasion, NCHR Chairperson Rabia Javeri Agha said, “We have to seriously address the issue of child abuse. The numbers reported by Sahil are indeed cruel, but a reality that we must confront. In view of these alarming figures, it is sad that the government of Pakistan still does not have a notified national action plan on child abuse.”

The report showed that out of the total reported cases, 91pc had been registered with the police, which was termed a “positive sign indicating an active role” of the police in addressing the issue.

In 2,021 cases, children were sexually abused from both genders, whereas in 61 cases, they were murdered after sexual abuse and at least 1,833 cases pertained to abduction. Similarly, the number of missing children was 330 and 29 cases, including two boys, of child marriages were also reported.

110 die by suicide

This year, Sahil also monitored cases of children up to 18 years old who had suffered some kind of injury or death. Out of a total of 2,184 cases monitored by the NGO, 694 children drowned, 401 died in accidents, 286 were murdered, 121 were tortured, 111 were injured, 110 committed suicide, and 103 died from electric shocks.

Sahil had compiled ‘Cruel Numbers 2023’ by monitoring 81 national and regional newspapers daily. The objectives of this report were to present the data on the situation regarding violence against children and to contribute to existing information on child sexual abuse in Pakistan. In addition to that, the research was also aimed at contributing towards spreading awareness and information about different forms of child sexual abuse to all segments of society.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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