A ninth grade student was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Khairpur’s Kingri taluka. The victim’s neighbours coaxed him into participating in a fishing expedition, trapping him for sexual assault.
Other neighbours told the parents, while they had been searching for the missing child, that they had seen him with an area mechanic. The parents registered an FIR against the accused and his accomplices, who confessed after being arrested.
After killing the boy and the perpetrators had thrown the corpse in the bushes. The police later recovered the body with an arm and a leg broken suggesting the victim had offered stiff resistance before being killed.
The details of the case have jolted many in a country where child sexual abuse (CSA) cases continue unabated. Six minors are falling prey every day in Pakistan, with activists questioning the state’s failure to protect its children.
Minor girls victimised recently include a six-year-old in Karachi’s Korangi area, a differently-abled victim in Okara, and other underage girls in Dadu, Kamber and a Lahore factory. Meanwhile, madrassa students are reported to have been sexually assaulted recently in Gujranwala, Sehwan, and Kasur, which many describe as the epicentre of child abuse in the country. The rape of a cat in Lahore and a goat in Okara has also been recently reported.
In 2020, 2,960 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the country, a 4% increase from 2019. 985 of these were of sodomy, 787 rape, 89 pornography, and 80 murder, whereas 834 children were reported to be abducted.
Sexual abuse against boys is much more common than people believe, according to developmental psychologist at the Agha Khan University Waliyah Mughis. The serious psychological baggage borne by the rape survivors takes a massive toll in later practical life, she says.
“Both, female and male victims can struggle to be believed by others but the taboo surrounding male child victims maybe even higher,” maintains Waliyah.
“Regardless of gender, the harmful effects of sexual violence are the same for males and females: guilt, self-blame, anger, fear, confusion, distrust, difficulty at school and work, difficulty forming and maintaining trusting relationships, increased risk of substance misuse and self-harm.”
As per the sexual crime data in the 2020 report, 65% cases were from the rural and 35% from urban areas. In rural areas, the divide between the parents and the children is wider compared to the urban milieu.
In urban areas, parents tend to focus less on their children. With decreasing communication, the children are more at liberty in cultivating their social network, thus more vulnerable to abuse. To avoid CSA, parents must build a strong communication bond.
The Senate Standing Committee on law and Justice cleared the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Bill, 2021 with Amendments, paving the way for death sentence, life imprisonment or chemical castration for those found guilty. Other salient features of the bill include constitution of special courts with induction of serving judges to expedite rape cases.
On the establishment of new courts, PPP’s Senator Raza Rabbani and PML-N’s Azam Nazeer Tarar conveyed their concerns with the former maintaining that he does not think there was a need for special courts. “Many special courts had been set up in the past but the issues remained unresolved,” Tarar notes.
The Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ali Zia Bajwa condemned the Punjab Police over its failure to launch investigation in reported cases in accordance with the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020. “Failure to follow the relevant law at such a large scale is utter dereliction of duty by the police,” says Justice Bajwa. The police claims it does not have the funds or technical expertise to carry out the investigation.
Experts maintain that laws are futile without implementation, as activists criticise the state for its failures in law enforcement and delaying police reforms.