Child Abuse In Pakistan Is No Longer A Hidden Shame, And It’s Time For Our Government To Stop Running From The Matter

Child abuse is the most appalling human rights violation. Researchers report that one billion children worldwide experience violence annually between the ages of 2 to 17. However, the situation is bleak in Pakistan, where the nightmare of child abuse is the harsh reality of child laborers. The violence includes deprivation or emotional, physical, or sexual harm to the victim. Furthermore, it is astonishing to consider that one out of every four adults experiences at least one form of violence during childhood.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either result in or has a high likelihood of injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.

“Age-appropriate communication with children about child sexual abuse is among one of the key protective measures that adults can undertake,” writes Clinical psychologist Zehra Kamal Alam in her article, read here.  Alam, who has worked for 19 years with children and adults in Pakistan, especially on trauma and violence, added, “The implications of not giving age-appropriate information and transferring skills to children can be very damaging. Silence on this issue can perpetuate further abuse and leave children suffering over long periods for something that can be stopped with timely intervention.”

Pakistan has a high rate of violence, but the situation is severely underreported due to governments’ lack of interest. Pakistan’s first and only National Child Labor Survey (1996) was conducted over a quarter of a century ago.

In 2018, a then 7-year-old girl named Zainab Ansari’s death sparked outrage in the Pakistan community.  Her body was found in a garbage dumpster in the Kasur district near the eastern city of Lahore. Protesters accused local authorities of failing to protect the child.  (One of my writers interviewed the man who killed, read the story here).  After her death, Pakistan passed its first national child abuse law, which included the penalty or life imprisonment for child abuse.

Zainab_Ansari

 

Many children in Pakistan were trapped in child labor.  The situation is distressing in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, where 5.8 million children work as laborers under the government’s nose. Two political parties have ruled this province for five decades. They seem not interested in fixing the situation even in 2021.

Research shows that 1.8 million children out of 5.8 million work in agriculture, and the Hindu Sindhi community is the most affected minority from child labor and abuse. They make up 8% of the population in the Sindh Region, where research shows 87.5% of children are employed. Not to mention, the Hindu Sindhi community lives in rural Sindh and therefore faces double discrimination.

Child laborers experience emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.  And children are more likely to suffer from poor mental health, risky sexual behavior, and criminality, drug and alcohol abuse. 

In a country where child laborers are already increasing, it is a challenge to curtail the abuse of children. It is a severe threat for the next generation of Pakistan.  I feel the Government of Pakistan has to take serious steps to fix the situation by conducting the National Child Labor Survey, which has not been conducted from a quarter-of-a-century! After that, build the solution on the data.

 

 

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