Despite the enactment of new laws prescribing deterrent punishments to the perpetrators of child abuse, these heinous crimes have increased in the country. In 2019, at least 2,846 incidents had been reported, but in 2020 the figure rose to 2,949. The annual report 2021 by Sahil, an NGO engaged in the protection of children’s rights, says that of the 2,949 victims, 1,510 were girls and 1,450 boys. On an average, eight children are subjected to sexual abuse daily in the country. The increase in the number of child abuse cases last year over the previous year indicates that the relevant laws have not been enforced in a strict manner. Had they been implemented properly, this would have acted as a deterrent and the number of cases would not have gone up.
The other notable aspect of the sad state of affairs is that of the total number of incidents taking place in 2020, a mere 2,587 were reported to the police. This can largely be attributed to the stigma attached to sexual abuse stemming from societal attitude. Victims and families tend to sweep these crimes under the carpet for it is generally observed that instead of giving a helping hand to the victims, society scandalises such incidents. Society, in most cases, wittingly increases problems of the sufferers in place of showing compassion. In order to bring about a positive change in the society’s mindset on the issue, the government, civil society, the media, teachers and all quarters concerned should step up efforts in this regard, especially in view of the increasing incidence of child abuse.
There are certain signs that show that a child has experienced abuse. If parents and teachers are aware of this, it can greatly help reduce the evil. There is also the need to establish child safety cells. Existing laws, particularly the Zainab Alert Act, have helped in preventing child abuse. However, what is needed the most is to ensure implementation of the laws.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2021.
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