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Children sexual abuse

Saddia Mazhar:
Farishta, a tweleve years went missing on Wednesday 15 May after she went out to
play in the eastern Islamabad neighbourhood where her family lives. She did not return
as expected when the evening call for prayer began at the local mosque – signalling the
breaking of the daily fast.
At that time, families gather for a meal known as Iftar – and Farishta’s absence triggered
a panic.
After scouring the neighbourhood and checking with friends, her family went to the
police to file a missing person report. On Monday evening, their worst fears were
realised when Farishta's body was found,with bleeding and raped.

Children are the assets of our society and how we bring them up determines the future
of our country. I believe we as a nation are failing dismally. Our children today face
multiple problems such as child labor, physical, sexual and verbal abuse. Perhaps the
most serious of these issues is sexual abuse – an impermissible crime which does not
receive its due share of attention from social or legal circles in Pakistan. Cultural and
religious sensitivities create a hushed aura about this topic.
Our silence and general inaction amplifies the psychological, physical and social
consequences that sexual abuse has for victims. Every time I watch or read a news
report on child sexual abuse, my mind grappled with why and how anybody could
commit such a heinous act. We need to examine the issue of sexual abuse, how to
prevent it and how to help heal those who have suffered it.
Children are facing increasing sexual, emotional harassment at their work place, where
they are working to fight against the poverty, helping their families to earn livelihood.
Ahmed, 11, was sexually abused by the owner of a restaurant in which he worked. “He
used to kiss me, and do wrong things to me,” he says. “He used to tell me he
won’t let me work at the restaurant if I did not let him do the bad things. He used
to tell me he will make sure I won’t work anymore … I was scared every day.”
Ahmed was reluctant to tell his parents about the abuse. “I thought people would
make fun of us … I would not be able to bring money home. Everything was
against me.”
Ahmed did eventually tell his parents, but they did not report the abuse. They were
ashamed, and feared the police would not act. Through a friend, Ahmed’s parents
managed to find him another job in a shoemaking factory.

In Pakistan 12 children are being sexually abused daily, according to a report by Sahil a
non-Government organization working for the Victim children.
About almost 4.0 million children work in Pakistan.The majority are employed in the
agriculture sector, but many work in leather and shoe factories, in mechanics’
workshops and restaurants.
Interviews with children, families and organizations reveal that many working children,
particularly boys, are expected to indulge in sexual activity with employers, peers and
acquaintances, often in return for work or accommodation. Victims are often threatened
to keep silent, and the mechanism of fear almost always works.
MrNaqvi who is working for a non-Government organization in Rural Punjab estimates
at least 90% of all working children under the age of 14 experience sexually harassment
or other forms of exploitation, and says he has come across hundreds of cases.
We being Parents have responsibility to take care of our children, educate them about
the increasing issue of being harassed. Following are some ways which can help in at
least reducing the phenomena.
Accompany your children outdoors, or ask a trusted member of the family to
accompany your children in case you cannot. Keep an eye out for your children,
monitor their whereabouts. If you have a caretaker/domestic help at home, don’t
leave your children alone with them. Submit details of the caretaker/housemaid to
your nearest police station as a precaution.Designate a place for the children to play
in. Make sure a parent/guardian of at least one of the children is present at the
venue and keeping a watchful eye. Also, set a particular play time for the children. If
they want to play for longer, make sure a trusted individual is present with them.
Nonetheless, Pakistan being signatory to the United Nation Conventions on the Rights
of the Child (UNCRC) and related protocols and conventions, Pakistan is one of the
developing countries which has a very poor record on child violence preventive
measures and facilities for the protection of children.
“Child Protection” is a set of strategies and services designed by government to protect
children and youth who are under the age of 18 and support family stability.  The
government runs services and measures include “investigation of suspected child
abuse , adoption services, and foster care services, child protective services and
services intended to supporting at-risk families”. Whereas,  the UNICEF employs the
term “child protection’’ to refer to “preventing and responding to violence, exploitation
and abuse against children–including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child
labor and harmful traditional practices”.

An academic research tells us that Pakistan has failed to form a uniform legislative
framework and system for the protection of the children. Many legal experts have also
pointed out the impractical nature of those laws and bills that have been passed and
placed in order to protect children from sexual abuse and different forms of exploitation.
In addition, a very tiny percentage and negligible amount of funds is allocated in both
federal and provincial budgets for children specific programs and activities.
According to Child Rights Movement (CRM) report, federal government could only less
than 1% on health of the total budget. The other factors which further exacerbate the
situation related to child protection include poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, terrorism,
growing corrupt judicial and political system and lack of access to health and
education.
To address the rampant child abuse , the government should devise strong legislative
frameworks, child specific programs and policies and strongly enforce and implement
them . Families and parents should report child abuse , support, protect, educate, and
empower their children by saying no to unwanted touch, identify potential harms
and child abuse so that we can tackle this menace in our society.

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