Conversations with Kanwal (CWK) is a digital talk show hosted by the founder of Soul Sisters Pakistan, Kanwal Ahmed. In the first season of CWK, she picked up the stories of 12 women who were bullied, abused, betrayed and suffered the worst battles but they all fought and stood strong against their battles.
After two successful seasons, Ahmed kick-started season three with a highly anticipated episode covering sexual assault of minors. Incidents of child sexual abuse increased by 14% in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, according to a report by the NGO Sahil. Their data revealed that more than eight children were abused every day in the first six months of the year.
“When there is an attempt made on your child, you directly come to the police to report the incident without worrying about the absence of evidence. Lawfully, any activity a child reports as being touched somewhere is an act of child molestation,” said assistant Superintendent of police, Amna Baig in the beginning of the episode.
Baig highlighted how crucial it is to report any as such incident that indicates sexual assault, even if that begins with physical harassment. She also highlighted the concern many hold for dwelling into legal strings, worrying about an affirmative outcome. “I believe as parents, it’s your responsibility to protect kids other than that of your own so the sexual abuser is at least listed as an ‘abuser’,” concluded Baig.
“He was visiting from Hyderabad, stayed at our place for a few hours,” began a child abuse survivor named Sahar. “It was my father’s cousin who came along with his mother while mine was busy entertaining them. I was seven and my brother was four. He was in his early 30s, significantly older than us. We live in a two-bedroom apartment so in that moment he said he was getting bored.”
She continued, “My mother has always been very vigilant but that day, since it was family, she asked me and my brother to assist him in the other room where he can fetch himself a book to read. It was there when he suggested we shall play a game where we must pick a paper chit with body parts scribbled across it and whoever gets whichever must kiss it.”
Being seven at the time, she added how entertaining someone for the sake of boredom could result in a lifelong trauma for anybody. “We walked out of the room soon enough to hear he was bored again so my mother instructed us to let him use our computer, which was in the same room. While he sat on the desktop chair, I was asked to sit on his lap. I could feel my pants unzip in that moment and somebody touching me. Things escalated when he asked my brother to bring water. Today, I have two daughters of my own and I can only imagine the innocence and how vulnerable a child can be at this age.”
Another survivor named Najda shared, “I have always been a great student but there was only one subject I could not ace: Islamiat. I did well in theory but never well enough in recitation. For that part, my mother decided to enroll me in a nearby facility. At some point, there was construction going around the house and being a child, I was curious to see what was happening.”
She went on, “While I was jumping to catch a glimpse, my teacher’s husband came and picked me up as I wished to see but he took the advantage and started to feel me in between my legs.”
Both survivors hope that society opens up enough to talk about such matters and accept that nobody is safe, may they be of any gender. Najda concluded with the fact that parents need to be open enough to understand that these things do happen, other than training children about good and bad touch.
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