Seven horrific cases of alleged sexual assault on a minor have come to the fore within a week in Lahore alone. The latest includes the murder of a 10-year-old girl whose body was found floating in a nearby swimming pool where she, along with her siblings, had gone to swim. The family alleges rape before murder but the FIR mentions only the latter. Other instances are equally, if not more, horrendous with heinous acts against children being carried out by both strangers and family members alike.
It is disconcerting that preying on the weak and innocent has become a common trend in our society and violence against children is rampant. However, cases are either settled through intimidation and force or are negligently underreported, making it difficult to ascertain the scale of the situation. For the most part, human rights organs remain dormant and very few NGOs provide support in a holistic manner to those facing severe abuse. There are a plethora of laws that protect children. Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and its Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in 2011. Moreover, each province has tabled a law and built child protection units along with special courts, but cohesiveness in identifying instances and trying and prosecuting criminals still remains to be seen. More often than not, perpetrators are let off scot-free. The sickening trend of child abuse indicates a horrible sickness that Pakistani society has been inflicted with. It desperately needs revolutionary change at the ideological as well as educational level.
Officials can immensely help by strengthening the criminal justice system so that cases are properly recorded and criminals are punished accordingly as a form of deterrence. Psychiatric evaluations should also be included in investigations. An iron hand is needed to keep our children safe, at least for now.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2022.
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