Several child abuse cases in recent years have rocked the country to its core. Amid the outpouring of emotions, some have angrily called for bringing back the death penalty for the culprits. Others have gone a step further demanding public hanging for the culprits to serve as some form of deterrent against these heinous acts. Child sexual abuse is an unfortunate reality of our society and we have struggled to address it adequately at multiple levels. Moved mainly by a recent case of abuse, parliament has responded swiftly, passing the Zainab Alert Bill that is meant to spread alerts in the hopes of saving our children. There have been cries from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) as well to publicly hang culprits after a case in Nowshera last month where a young child was raped and brutally murdered. Following recommendations from the province’s assembly, the National Assembly passed a resolution calling for public hanging.
However, a report by the police in K-P has offered new light on where some of the failings of the system may lie. The report, about the number of child abuse cases being reported, the suspects arrested in them and their prosecution status, is extremely shocking. Prepared by the police, the report shows that there is a whopping acquittal rate of over 80%. And this has been a general theme for the past five years at least. The officer, who has presented the report before his superiors, states that some of the reasons for a shockingly-low conviction rates are poor investigation and evidence-collection techniques. To put it simply, cops have a hard time proving a crime committed by a particular suspect. The failings of our prosecution system are well documented. It is not entirely uncommon to find wrongful convictions, even in death penalty cases. We may clamour for public hanging, but first, we must guarantee that we are convicting the true culprits by proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2020.