British poet Thomas Gray coined the adage ‘where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise’. However, the philosophy cannot be used as a blanket justification for all forms of ignorance. After all, it is disconcerting when someone else detects our flaws while we continue to dress it up as a taboo and brush it under the carpet.
The controversy surrounding Channel 4’s documentary on the haunting realities of child abuse in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has triggered a similar sense of discontent. Pakistan’s Hidden Shame breaks away from a long-standing tradition of silence and raises some pertinent points about an issue that has largely remained off-limits.
It is difficult to refute the allegations made in the film. Child abuse rarely emerges as a state priority issue. As a result, the fundamental purpose of the film is to create awareness and set off a meaningful discourse.
However, the sticking point is that such problems will continue to exist until the government develops a systematic approach to resolve them. The global community may condemn them as rights violations but they cannot go the extra mile and trigger a positive change.
The state needs to tackle the menace of child abuse. In the documentary, provincial leaders have admitted that the prevalence of child abuse among street children has left a shameful imprint on the K-P government’s performance record.
But the inability to volunteer solutions to the problem shows that only half-baked efforts are being made to tackle the issue. It is unlikely that any positive outcome can be gleaned unless there is an unconditional acceptance of the traumas associated with child abuse.
In addition, the state must realise that it owes a responsibility to every single child. A child’s innocence is not an expendable commodity that can be pawned away in a brisk apology or expression of shame. The K-P government needs to seriously reassess its priorities and navigate these children out of their predicament.
At this critical juncture, it should implement a carefully monitored awareness drive. Experts should be appointed to educate street children about the threat of child abuse so that they can fend off any unwarranted attention.
The state cannot wait to be castigated by the international community. Rather than being lulled into a sense of false security by its own ignorance, it should take a proactive stance and find a tangible solution.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2014.