Reality Check: Pakistani journalist says large number of children in the country are sexually abused and are vulnerable to assault
Islamabad: A senior Pakistan journalist has pointed out that a large number of children in the country are sexually abused and are vulnerable to assault and this is a reality that can no longer be ignored.
According to Cruel Numbers 2020, the latest report by the child rights organisation Sahil, eight children were sexually abused every day in Pakistan last year, an increase of four per cent over the previous year, journalist Huma Khawar mentioned in her opinion piece published in Dawn News.
A total number of 2,960 cases were reported in newspapers from all over the country during 2020.
According to the report, children, both boys and girls, are victims and the age group most vulnerable to abuse is between six and 15 years; however, children younger than five years are not safe from sexual abuse either, she mentioned in her opinion piece, highlighting the grim reality of children in the nation.
She said children are not even safe within his or her own family circle.
"The predators are mostly adults who are known to the child."
"In 1,780 cases, the abuser was either a relative, a neighbour or a service provider such as a teacher, tutor, driver, shopkeeper, doctor or the local policeman," the journalist wrote.
"Of course, these figures are just the tip of the iceberg as a large number of cases of violence and sexual abuse remain unreported or under-reported. There are reasons for this. Often children who have been subjected to such atrocity do not know who to share their ordeal with since the abusers are known to their parents. Sometimes they also feel guilty as they feel it is happening through some fault of their own," she wrote.
"Although the perpetrators may at times threaten children with dire consequences if they put up resistance, in a majority of cases, the victims of this horror are lured by the abusers through demonstrations of affection, care, candy or money. Many of these children suffer in silence for years even as they go on to become adults," she said.
The journalist said laws alone could not eliminate child sexual abuse.
She said: "Experts believe that the more children understand the issue and learn how to say ‘no’, the greater their ability to identify potentially abusive situations."
She said: "There are other approaches as well but they face challenges. For instance, while educating children about the issue through textbooks would be effective, this proposal by human rights groups has met with stiff resistance. For years, those arguing that age-appropriate information on sexual abuse will not make youngsters sexually active or promiscuous and will instead make them more aware and confident in dealing with abusive situations have fought a losing battle — as if the issue of child sexual abuse is being brushed under the carpet."