Sahil’s this year’s report on child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan 2017 revealed shocking numbers. Around 3,445 children were reported to have been sexually abused, at least nine on daily basis. It is to be noted, that most of these cases go unreported due to various reasons.
With the recent allegations made by famous Pashto singer Nazia Iqbal against her brother for raping two of her minor daughters aged 8 and 12, Rawalpindi was in the spotlight, leaving us all awestruck and the likes of me turned enraged. Once again, we as a society, were in a deep quandary, having a mind full of unanswerable questions, for no one who has not yet been victimized by such tragic loss, would have the courage to ask the aggrieved parents why they left their children unattended?
While I would not entirely blame the parents [for no parent would want or should see their child suffering silently in horrifying nights], I would still like to highlight a few things that should make every parent vigilant and watchful. In most of the cases of sexual abuse, the perpetrators are well known and trusted by children, just to quote examples; Zainab’s rapist cum murderer was a family friend, who even came to condole with Zainab’s parents after murdering her. In case of Nazia Iqbal’s daughters, it was the children’s maternal uncle.
While it is no longer a new fact that in most of the cases the perpetrators are well acquainted with the family and it is someone whom the family and the child trust. It is true that parents can’t supervise their children at all times; however, they can be more watchful and observant of the behavior their children display.
Children who are sexually abused generally exhibit a slightly different behavior from the rest. They tend to be more aggressive and secretive. They might face difficulty in sleeping and show sudden variation in mood. They might become socially withdrawn. They are more prone to inflicting self-harm. They might even talk about things that children that age should not or generally do not know. One of the most important things that must draw the immediate and utmost attention of the parents is when their child refuses to be around a certain adult who makes them feel insecure.
It is unfortunate that most of the times when children refuse to greet or pay a visit to their relatives’ home, parents take it as sheer obstinacy being shown by their child. They never ask and thus are never able to comprehend the insecurities their child faces.
This is only a misconception in the minds of the parents in particular and the adults in general, that children are too innocent to understand anything. Children have a very acute observation and are deeply perceptive. They need attention, love, and security. Parents must not brush it aside under the guise of stubbornness showed by children, rather they should try to understand the psychology of their child.
I remember that after Zainab rape and murder case, I took it as my moral duty to educate and make children aware of sexual abuse. I lectured around a 100 children aged 10-14 about good touch and bad touch. While doing so, I was asked by a 10-year-old child, “Why do they hurt us? What have we done to them?” Another one asked, “What do they do to us”? I was taken aback and was dumbfounded at their innocence.
Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention for Rights of Children (UNCRC) in 1990, but unfortunately, almost three decades have passed and there has been little implementation. Moreover, followed by the 18th amendment, a National Policy on Children had to be adopted, but so far it has not materialized. This shows the lack of will to deal with the issue of child sexual abuse on our government and state’s part.
The issue of sexual abuse is a grave one, our government, and we as a society must assume the responsibility to deal with it effectively.