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Child abuse in Pakistan

Child abuse is a type of sexual assault and sexual abuse when a child gets victim of an adult or somehow another child for the satisfaction of sexual desire with the deprival of the attention of caregiver. Child abuse is so vile that it can destroy the life of the victim because of social set up, especially in society like Pakistan. The victim has to face social segregation. In some cases it results in the death of victim.
According to NCTSN (2009), “Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child becomes a tool for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer.” In addition, sexual abuse includes touching and non- touching actions. Touching actions may involve touching of penis, vagina, buttocks, breast and sexual intercourse. Non-touching actions may include looking at child with naked body and pornography.
To quote ECSA-HC, in 2011, 223 million children globally were sexually abused out of which 150 were girls and 73 were boys . According to a report (2014) child sexual abuse cases reported in Pakistan was 2778 in 2012, and 3002 in 2013.
A total 3,768 cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) were reported in 2015 revealing the number of abused children to 10 per day. The figure also shows an increase of 7 per cent from the previous year. These alarming statistics were released in Sahil’s annual ‘Cruel Numbers 2015’, a research on child sexual abuse (CSA) cases reported in newspapers during 2015.
This year, the Cruel Numbers 2015 has been compiled from 84 national, regional and local newspapers. Gender-wise distribution followed the trends of the previous years where more girls became victims of sexual abuse. This report shows that 1,974 girls and 1,794 boys have been abused during the past year.
The report shows that a total of 5,483 abusers are on record. The largest groups identified were 1,943 acquaintances and 829 strangers. Like previous years, the highest percentage of vulnerable age group among both girls and boys was 11-15 years. The research shows that children between the age brackets of 0-5 years, and up to 10 years are abused. This year the data also shows that victims in the age bracket of 0-5 years, 6-10 years and 11-15 years are more boys than girls.
The data shows sexual abuse can occur anywhere, at any time. Statistics show 44 per cent of cases of sexual assault took place within enclosed areas whereas 21 per cent case took place in open spaces. The time period of abuse shows that 73 per cent of the children were abused once. In 13 per cent of the cases, children were abused for more than a day.
Province–wise division shows that 2,616 cases of abuse were reported from Punjab, followed by 638 cases reported from Sindh, 207 from Balochistan, 167 from Islamabad, 113 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 21 from Azad Jammu Kashmir, 3 cases from Gilgit-Baltistan and 3 cases were reported from Fata.
The urban–rural divide shows that 74 per cent cases were reported from rural areas where as 26 per cent of cases were reported from the urban areas of all the cases 68 per cent were registered with police, 4 per cent were unregistered whereas 9 per cent cases police refused to register an FIR.
Abduction cases have shown a decrease by 24 per cent from 1,831 cases in 2014 to 1,386 cases in 2015. On average 4 children are being abducted every day. Besides that 112 cases of child marriages were reported during the last year. The research was release at an event organized by Sahil to award Child Friendly Newspaper and Best Volunteer Award. The award for child friendly newspaper was presented in three categories, i.e. national, regional and local newspaper.
Speaking on this occasion, Executive Director Sahil Dr. Manizeh Bano shared case studies to highlight that boys are also extremely vulnerable to being sexually abused.
Director General Ministry of Human Rights Hassan Mangi was the guest of honor at the event. He talked about the recent amendment in the Pakistan Penal Code to protect children. He highlighted “The Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013” passed by the Senate clearly criminalizes pornography, neglect and cruelty to a child and also increases penalty and punishment for the offenders.
Counselor (Political and Commercial) Canadian High Commission Allison Stewart was the chief guest on the occasion. She reiterated the resolve of Canadian government to continue supporting initiatives for the protection of children in Pakistan.
The trend clearly shows that among all the age groups, the number of victims (2617) between the age segment of 11-15 years are most vulnerable to CSA. Children belonging to the age segment of 6-10 years are second on the list. A 90% increase can be seen in the 1 -5 year category over the 5 years. Newspaper reports often do not mention the age of the victims. Missing age of victims is 42% of the total of reported cases. Girls are at a much higher risk of CSA as compared to the boys in all age segments.

A classic definition of rape in legal terms is something that happens when actual penetration takes place without the will of the person, and that leaves males completely out of its context. Under the clause 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code, the legal definition of rape pertains to women, and if there is something where males can find redress of their grievance, it comes under the offence of unnatural act clause (376A, Pakistan Penal Code), but so far, there is no reported incident when it has been evoked.
Boys are most common victims in cases of male rape. Needless to say that despite the prevalent incidents of sexual abuse of children, there is no proper mechanism for implementing existing laws in Pakistan meant to protect children from abuse. The culture of ‘bacha baazi’ (sex with children) is very common in some northern areas of Pakistan, especially in some parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but despite the authorities aware of the phenomenon, no serious action had ever been taken against perpetrators, and no precedent has been set to stop this sickening practice. What’s worse, pedophilia as an act is considered a social and cultural norm in some parts of Pakistan.
Instances of male rape occur mostly in homosexual relationships, but because of the criminalisation of homosexual acts — which is liable to punishment of mimimum two years — there is no acknowledgement to differentiate willful relations from coerced relations among men. This in itself is troublesome because no male would come forward with complaint of rape committed by other men for the humiliation of his involvement in an ‘unnatural act’.

As per age-old conventions, women are the ones to be sexually subjugated, and not the other way around. While the seriousness of the case had been seriously undermined, the fact that sexual assault is primarily all about power and not just lust remains unaddressed. If one has to understand the dynamics of female-on-male rape, the victims of Abu Gharib prison in Iraq by the marines, both men and women, should be taken into consideration, and that is just one of the many problems one sees during military aggression. Where there is prevailing male dominance, misandrist tendencies are also found in women. Many blame feminism for such violations, while not understanding that the struggle for equal rights for women is not about women having superiority over men, or hating men for that matter. However, misandry is not an integrated social trend as misogyny is, but that does not mean that anyone has the right to aggressively show their dominance over others.
Reporting rape in itself should be seen in its objectivity of a crime. Ideally, the rape law should not be contingent upon specific gender or age of the victims when the gravity of the act is to be determined. However, the dilemma remains whether excluding specification of gender from rape definitions could, in any way, undermine the rights of women in a society that is already misogynist in character. The question here is not about comparing the impact of sexual violence on men, women and children; it is about the trauma each victim has to go through. The suicide rates among men is higher because instead of acknowledging them as human beings who too can get hurt like women do, society insults and humiliates them when they fail to live up to its patriarchal expectations of ‘manhood’.

University of the Punjab Lahore

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