Islamabad: The rape and murder of an eight-year-old Pakistani girl, Zainab Ansari, that shocked the country and triggered protests seems to be just the tip of the iceberg.
In the last few years, more than 17,000 Pakistani children were victims of abuse and harassment. A report by the Ministry of Human Rights presented in the National Assembly on Wednesday revealed that 17,862 cases of child abuse have been reported in the country since 2013.
The government department partnered with an NGO called Sahil, which works on child protection to bring to light the tragedy of the children.
According to the report, at least 10,620 girls and 7,242 boys have suffered abuse in the four years from January 2013 — January 2017.
A total of 13,267 First Information Reports (FIRs) against child abuse were lodged with the police during the four-year period, the report stated.
However, only 112 cases were decided upon in which the accused were convicted. Among those, 25 convicts were awarded death sentences while 11 convicts were given life sentences. In 10 cases, the accused were sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“This gruesome figure is a stark reminder of the lack of implementation of law in Pakistan in preventing child abuse and neglect”, child rights activist Saima Shah said.
Alaptagin Khan, Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that “Child abuse is a national problem. It’s not confined to a single city, a single perpetrator or a gang exploiting young children.” Khan recommends that “We will need to take ownership of the fact that we have failed as a nation to protect our children.”
The data was shared a day after country’s National Assembly passed the ‘The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017’ which aims to enforce harsh punishment for heinous crimes against children, like child pornography and sexual abuse of minors.
Under the bill, imprisonment for the offences has been proposed ‘not less than 14 years and may extend up to 20 years’ with the fine not less than one million rupees.
The bill was moved by MNA Mussarat Ahmad Zeb following the recent events of sexual abuse of children throughout the country and protests by public demanding that tough punishments be awarded to the perpetrators.