I am your friend

January 27, 2016 - 5 minutes read

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‘I am your friend and this is what friends do.’
‘I am your “best friend” you can tell me anything at all.’
‘Trust me, this will only take a while.’
‘Comply, or else people will find out about what “friends do.”
‘I didn’t do anything, it is entirely your fault.’
‘You think you can just walk away, that you’ll be accepted after all of this?’

Targeting children, this is just the crux of the approaches used by perpetrators to involve them in their heinous activities. Are they effective? Unfortunately, they are in Pakistan. According to a child rights NGO Sahil, 3058 cases of child abuse were reported in 2015. What about the ones who never filed due to social stigma?
Every child whether living in a rural or urban area, in a developed or undeveloped region is at an equal risk of being abused by someone, anyone.

Are boys abused as well? Though stigmatic, boys are equally prone to being abused as girls. Unfortunately, nothing but the vulnerability of the victim matters to the abuser.

In 2015 a network of child abusers was discovered in Kasur. Accomplice with the police the network abducted children, made pornographic content and extorted money from their families. Though uncovered, only a handful of 38 out of a known 200 families actually pursued for justice through the legal system. Besides the taboo attached, a primary reason for the families not to seek justice is the unavailability of laws against child abuse. This not only prolongs the whole process but also makes it excruciating for the already damaged children as well as their parents. A mere example being that medical proof is denied any ground in the proceedings.

Moreover, the greatest dilemma is that the victimized children in Pakistan are unable to seek proper mental help. Perpetrated by close relatives or acquaintances, children find it difficult to convey it to their parents and even if they do, the social stigma rushes in and psychological help is not even considered; nor is it provided to families who lack resources. According to the ‘Advances in Clinical Child Psychology’, 60% juvenile sex offenders have themselves been victims of abuse. Denying proper psychological help, we are actually brewing the next generation of perpetrators. Depression and eventual suicide have also been related to childhood problems including sexual abuse.

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Being a child’s rights activist, I believe that drastic measures and changes need to be put in an immediate effect to prevent future cases and to help the already existing ones.
Furthermore, Pakistan needs proper legislation regarding child abuse with severe punishments for the defaulters as well as their psychological counseling. Being a pandemic throughout the world there is no one place where the rates of child-sexual abuse are decreasing; however, there are a few methods adapted in North Dakota, an American state, which have proven to be very effective. Understanding the need for psychological help, victims as well as perpetrators screened through interviews are provided free psychological consults in rehabilitation centers. Moreover, the identification of these individuals in North Dakota has helped the authorities to prevent another crime committed by them.
However, this just might not be enough for Pakistan. Therefore a child help force independent of the local police should be established in Pakistan. The Kasur incidence was not the sole event where the police was an accomplice. Another similar but smaller network was discovered in Multan just a few weeks later.

What should the child help force be responsible of? Besides providing immediate emergency services, the child help force should also value the identity of the victims; it should even help individuals to open up to their parents. Like the police, the help force too should have an emergency helpline service and offices throughout the country and should be easily approachable by the children. Furthermore, parents as well as children in all areas should be taught how to protect themselves from possible abusers through awareness teams.

Though the costs of establishing such a force are high especially for a developing country like Pakistan, the annual losses due to youth suicide are much great. Therefore investments in these developments are extremely important.

Written by: Kumael Azhar Naqvi ( Member of Causes Platform)
Published by: Editorial Board

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