In a country where rape statistics increase by the minute, it is no surprise that even innocent children are susceptible to sexual abuse at the hands of pedophiles, which remain unchecked. Children have been targeted in more than one way, some of which are denied to be child abuse by many.
Before delving into the types of abuse suffered by children at the hands of pedophiles, let’s address the difference between sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
Sexual exploitation indicates children who are raped numerous times or used sexually against their consent, whereas in sexual abuse, children find themselves manipulated into sexual activities often perpetrated by family, relatives or other familiar elders.
At a young age, especially with no access to sex education or the prospect of “bad touching,” these children do not understand what is happening to them. Most give in for the reward set up by the perpetrator or because they’ve been threatened.
About 8 out of 10 children know their sexual abuser beforehand.
We need to understand that there is no mold for sexual abusers and that there is no solid description or definition as to who might take advantage of our children. Child abusers and molesters hail from all cultures, castes, creeds, races, colors, and religion.
We must also accept that it isn’t just men who sexually assault children; women also partake in such disgusting activities. Similarly, it is not just girls who are made victims of sexual abuse, but also boys.
Sexual exploitation and prostitution of boys is a cultural norm in some tribal areas of Pakistan and Baluchistan. In Pakistan, Madrassas are notorious for sexually abusing children, and the judiciary has at worst negligible and at best, vague laws to deal with child abuse. Somehow, religious officials or practitioners often face no punishment for what few cases are brought before the court.
Firstly, child marriages are not considered a crime in Pakistan. Girls are often sold into marriages to either solve family disputes or to combat money. More often than not, the child bride faces marital rape by her elderly husband which is an act that has so far gone decriminalized. The law approves marriages at any age given that the child reaches puberty, but what they don’t consider is that intercourse at such young ages can damage the child’s body beyond repair and lead to permanent psychological trauma.
Next, we have madrassas. The madrassas that are meant to teach children the core values of Islam, how to read and interpret religious teachings and how to uphold oneself as a Muslim in society, are also places of depravity and sexual abuse, the brunt of which is bore by children. Sexual abuse is often dealt with by offering blood money or monetary compensation to the victim’s family in exchange for forgiveness, as practiced by religious clerics. If the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan cannot combat child abuse, then what are we to do with the so-called moral codes and principles of life that are shoved down our throats by zealots? Some bigots justify the rape of females by blaming their clothing, but how will they explain how children who haven’t reached puberty are also subjected to the violation of their bodies, despite the fact that their bodies haven’t even fully developed? That’s right, they can’t.
Additionally, families prefer to keep quiet about child rape, and do not speak up in fear of bringing dishonor to their family. We have emphasized time and time again, that the victim is not the one who has lost their honor, but the rapist.
Rather than focusing on establishing adequate punishment for rapists, we choose to victimize, and stigmatize rape victims, who then prefer to keep quiet because what good will they do by publicly accusing someone – especially those well connected and accepted in society – of rape, when they themselves will be targeted by the hateful attitude of rape apologists?
Many children progress to adulthood without speaking of their traumatic past, and some choose to not speak up even then.
Whilst there is no shortage of nationalists and patriots, there is a massive, gaping, hole where people should be protesting child abuse and demanding the constitution be amended to suit the needs of victims of child abuse. It is shameful to think that Pakistan has a “rape capital”, also known as Kasur, which used to be famous for Sufism. We also have a documentary that portrays the horrific child abuse that occurs in the country: directed by Mohammed Naqvi, and produced by Jamie Doran, the documentary, “Pakistan’s Hidden Shame” offers a frightful insight into the plight of sexually abused boys in Pakistan.
In 2006, the Kasur child abuse sex scandal came to light, The Kasur child sexual abuse scandal is a series of child sexual abuses that occurred in Hussain Khanwala village in Kasur District, Punjab, Pakistan from 2006 to 2014, culminating in a major political scandal in 2015. Villagers in Husain Khan Wala told Reuters that a prominent family there has for years forced children to perform sex acts on video. The footage was sold or used to blackmail their impoverished families. An MPA Malik Ahmad Saeed was exposed for being involved in Kasur’s child porn scandal.
In 2016, two men were given life imprisonment for their role in a pedophilia ring accused of abusing dozens of children over many years in Punjab. An in 2017, the killing and rape of eight-year-old Zainab sparked riots across the country. The police have been accused multiple times of not doing their jobs and turning a blind eye to the crimes occurring in their vicinity.
If Pakistani people can riot against the government for 125 days in a row, why can’t they ensure that if no one else, at least children remain safe in their country? Or are we too hung up in making Mr. Imran Khan Prime Minister, and chanting, “Chor Aya,” at Mr. Nawaz Sharif, that we’ve forgotten how Mr. Imran Khan did nothing to prevent the child abuse occurring in Peshawar, and how all those rape scandals went down in Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s districts?
We don’t even have homes or orphanages to shelter street children, who usually have no choice but to sell their bodies for food and money, many of whom are abused, discarded, and left for dead.
When will we find the time to deliver justice to the child abuse victims who suffer quietly in their own heads?