How many more children's peace needs to be robbed before our authorities take action?

According to a survey: in Pakistan, children less than 18 years of age are falling prey to child sexual abuse at the rate of 6 children per day which is alarming

We are going through the worst of times. From mega corruption scams to shrinking sovereignty of the state combined with the rude mushrooming of terrorist organizations and their franchises – everything looks like a total mess, where most of the people prefer to remain complacent. Just seven months after the deadliest attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, which took the lives of scores of innocent students, we hear another devastating news: this time, the shame engulfs us with a greater intensity after we find out that 280 children have been molested in Ganda Singh Wala, Punjab.

280 is not the number of kids, but the number of families who have been affected by this heinous crime. According to the initial news, innocent school-going kids were robbed of their innocence by a gang of approximately 25 men. Young girls and boys, aged between 7 and 15, were forced to have sex in front of the camera and in turn those videos were sold to potential buyers residing abroad, who promote child pornography. It is reported that some of the children’s parents paid the amount to prevent the further sale of these videos but all in vain.

Sadly, sexual abuse has always been neglected by our society – the society which, on the other hand, gives a lot of reverence to norms and religious values. Sometimes this behavior, in order to protect its morals, becomes an indirect force which results in the suppression of these events. Sometimes parents remain reluctant to go to police station to avoid the thana culture and try to settle such matters outside of the court. This impacts law enforcing agencies in turn, and the culprits who become more powerful.

Sexual abuse is perceived as shameful and taboo, hence hundreds of innocent lives live with the shadow, memories and trauma of the assault. Several children surrender their lives in the name of honor or absorb the pain for fear of losing a loved one, if the secret is revealed. In the past, cases related to child sexual abuse were reported by the media using humiliating words that caused more harm than good to the victim, who was then forced to live under anathema.

According to a survey: in Pakistan, children less than 18 years of age are falling prey to child sexual abuse at the rate of 6 children per day which is alarming in this state which brags about being created in the name of religion and tries to proves itself moralistic all the time.

We need an effective legislation to put an end to such acts, and to promote a culture where the victim no longer feels ashamed or insecure about reporting it to the police. Twenty years after Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, laws to shelter children from violence are still missing. However, some progress has been made in the form of new sections in Criminal Law and in the form of Child Protection Act.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014, provides some hope by the insertion of a new section 292-A which defines “exposure to seduction” under the law. According to it, whoever involves in the activity of seduction by any means shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend up to seven years or fine which shall not be less than one hundred thousand rupees and may extend to five hundred thousand rupees, or both.

Another important development which is relevant in this regard is the insertion of section 292-B which deals with child pornography, while 292C presents its punishment. It must be noted that Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, also deals with the idea of sodomy in 299-G.

This incident and scores of others of the same kind in which culprits have fearlessly committed sodomy and child molestation, have slapped our laws in the face. Greater work is needed to be done for the execution of such laws, and for keeping a vigilant eye on child pornography and other similar websites. Moreover, our society should promote an atmosphere which does not make the victim more vulnerable.

Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul. I hope the state proves me wrong this time and will provide the necessary psychological assistance to the victims to enable them to live freely again without bearing marks of injuries on their bodies, minds, and souls.

Qurat-ul-Ain Zaidi is a lawyer and a human rights activist. She is the founder of Amal, which works to promote public discourse and an inclusive, pluralistic society. Follow her on Twitter.

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