Education is the only way to tackle the horrors of child abuse

In August 2015, the entire country convulsed when a horrendous case of pedophilia that took place in Kasur, 50km from Lahore, surfaced. Around 300 children were sexually abused for years by a ring of 25 men. These men would film the children and later blackmail their parents. Almost two years later things haven’t changed much. We are there again and so is our silence. Once again we have failed our children. Recently, the Norwegian Embassy contacted FIA through a letter and informed them about a man named Amin who indulged in child pornography in Sargodha. He lured the children in on the pretext of providing them with computer education. FIA recovered around 65,000 child pornographic videos from Amin. Kasur and Sargodha are not the sole cases; between these two, many similar incidents such as Swat and KotAddu child abuse cases have also surfaced.

According to Sahil, an NGO that particularly focuses on the issue of child abuse, last year reportedly child sexual abuse cases have increased by 36 percent. Thousands of cases of abuse were reported last year. We must not forget that many such cases go unreported. Protection and safety is a fundamental right of every single child and providing them safety and protection is the constitutional obligation of the government whether federal or provincial. However, there seems to be excruciatingly inadequate inclination on the part of the government to make amendments in existing laws and performing its constitutional obligations. Right after Kasur and Swat cases, a bill “The Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2016” was tabled by MNA Mussarat Ahmed Zeb. The bill sought to augment the existing punishment for such crimes. The bill demanded the death penalty or lifetime imprisonment for the felonious criminals committing such heinous crimes instead of five to seven years in prison. The bill was rejected by National Assembly recently. This is a befitting illustration of the government’s apathy and aloofness.

The truth of the matter is that we as a society do not understand the long-term effects sexual abuse has on the psychology of children. Hence, we are unable to comprehend the enormity of the crime. Therefore, even when we come across news of toddlers being raped, we carry own with sheer stoicism instead of taking to roads and demanding justice. Children abused at early ages often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Stress incurred at early age has adverse effects on the development of the brain. The effects of child abuse become more evident at the age of 18 till 22. Adult survivors may suffer from a shattered self-esteem, guilt, depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity, eating and sleeping disorders. Their immune system might not be as strong as others who have not suffered abuse. Another factor that develops in such children is their inability to trust people around them. This might cause havoc in their lives. The situation is further aggravated when such children are not subjected to psychological treatment and rehabilitation.

Another issue that such cases highlight is the plight of young boys. Where young girls still get attention if they fall victims to such nefarious crimes, boys get little or no attention at all. The report on child abuse and its increase in number by NGO Sahil shows that boys between 1-15 years of age are more vulnerable to sexual abuse than girls are. The reasons may vary, but the main one seems to be their availability. While parents are still over-protective about their daughters and keep them indoors, boys are sent outside and hence are more likely to fall victims to such brazen criminals. In worst cases, pedophiles were reported saying that raping young boys isn’t even a crime and it’s alright to involve them into sexual intercourse.

Children are considered to be the most valuable asset of a country. Therefore, they must be cherished and protected. They must not be thrown into the gallows of deep abyss. For development of our country, we need to invest more and more into this treasure and must ensure its safety. This is not just the responsibility of the government but collective responsibility of every individual in the society. Child abuse, if not completely eradicated from the society, can be controlled. To serve that purpose, laws must be formulated. Strict punishments must be given to the criminals without delay. Children must be granted full support and rehabilitation. The most important step, however, would be to educate the masses that the problem of child sexual abuse persists and it’s real. Parents must be made aware and then they must educate their children about appropriate and inappropriate forms of touching. It’s imperative for us to play our part in expunging the evil from our society before more children are robbed off their innocence.

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