PESHAWAR: With recent incidents in Kasur and Mardan again focusing on sexual abuse of children, rights activists have said that these are just the tips of the gruesome iceberg with scores of abuse cases filed with a government body over the past six years.
District-wise data from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Child Protection and Welfare Commission (KPCPWC) show that as many as 222 cases of sexual violence and abuse against children were reported from May 2011 to December 2017 across the province.
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Of these, twice as many boys were victims as compared to girls, with 155 cases registered for sexual abuse of boys and 67 for abuse of girls.
In sexual abuse, Abbottabad was at the top with 38 cases, followed by Swabi with 37 cases, Mardan with 35 and Charsadda with 30.
Moreover, as many as 12 cases were reported from Peshawar, 19 from Swat, nine from Bunner, seven from Kohat, eight from Battagram, nine from Lower Dir, eight from Chitral and 10 from Bannu.
However, Jehanzaib Khan, the regional manager for non-governmental organisation (NGO) Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), has claimed that the actual number of sexual abuse cases against children in the province is far more than just 222, adding that the daily average of sexual abuse cases in Pakistan is around 11.
Jehanzaib explained that the KPCPWC only registers those cases which are reported in the newspapers. He added that a vast majority of the cases are not reported to even the police owing to the Pashtun cultural norms which make the abused children and their parents think twice before disclosing an incident.
Talking about the profile of children who most frequently fall prey to abusers, Jehanzaib explained that children working as labourers or those who are working in people’s homes were the most vulnerable.
Even as the K-P government and police have sprung into action in the wake of the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl in Mardan, Jehanzaib felt that the government has yet to take serious steps to prevent such cruel acts from taking place in the first place.
He said that according to K-P Child and Welfare Act 2010, the government was bound to set up a provincial child protection commission which would in turn set up child protection units at the district level.
While the previous government led by the Awami National Party (ANP) had set up the child protection units in 13 different districts, these units were forced to close around a month before the incident in Mardan surfaced owing to lack of funds. The government, the SPARC chief for K-P urged, should set up child protection units in each district wise and assign them the task of sensitising parents about the protection of their children.
He also demanded parents to take care of their children and educate them about as to how to take care of their bodies, about unwanted or wrong touches apart from training them to inform their parents when someone touches their private parts.
When contacted, KPCPWC Chief Ijaz Khan admitted that the number of sexual abuse cases has not been updated recently, adding that updated figures will be shared soon.
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About the child protection units in the districts, Ijaz conceded that the units had to close, however, he denied that the units were shuttered permanently, adding that the closure lasted only a week. After K-P Chief Minister Pervez Khattak signed a summary extending the project, the units restarted their work. About the case in Mardan, the KPCPWC chief said that they were monitoring the case and that their teams were working closely with security officers.
Pointing to perhaps one silver lining, Ijaz said that around 95 per cent of sexual abuse cases have been resolved.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2018.
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