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Analysis

Society’s Silence Over Child Abuse Issue Is Hurting Our Children The Most

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Kasur is famous for its food, picnic spots and for being the final resting place of renowned Sufi saint Bulleh Shah. Unfortunately, the past reputation of the city is at stake as it has also become famous for child sexual abuse and murders, especially in the past one decade or so.

On Tuesday, the city was shaken to its core after the bodies of three minors were recovered by Chunian police in the sand dunes near Chunian bypass. Reports showed that the minors were murdered after being sexually assaulted by unknown persons.

The three children, mostly between the ages of eight and 12, had gone missing since June, while another boy had gone missing in the area earlier this week. Meanwhile, police has miserably failed to identify or arrest the unknown kidnappers/murderers, even though cases of child abuse have become a common occurrence in the city.

This incident has been heavily criticised on social media and was among one of the top trending stories, where users called for the culprits to be hanged publicly.

The dark side of Kasur was revealed before the public last year in January, when six-year-old Zainab Ansari’s body was recovered from a garbage dump in the city, five days after she was reported missing. This was the 12th such incident to have occurred in the city within a 10-kilometre radius over a period of one year.

In 2015, a village near Kasur came into the limelight after a child pornography ring was busted by police. The gang was involved in making hundreds of videos of minor boys and girls who were forced to perform sexual acts. The videos were used for the purpose of blackmailing the families of victims and to extort money from them.

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Since the practice of child sexual abuse continues to spread in and around Kasur, it gives rise to a question whether giving death penalty to sex offenders has played any role in discouraging other offenders from indulging in this heinous crime.

Emotional calls by citizens to hang offenders have not really stopped child molesters from continuing their hideous activities. The punishment of death penalty has also proved ineffective in controlling this criminal culture, which is fast spreading to other areas.

Under these circumstances, the only solution left with the government and other stakeholders is to start from the basics by educating children and parents about child abuse through workshops, seminars and books.

The curriculum taught in Pakistan does not touch upon the issue of child sexual abuse nor is this topic discussed in the country’s media. This is concerning since cases of abuse against minors are often reported from different areas of the country, the epicentre of which is present in Punjab.

Somehow, this burning issue is brushed under the carpet by the society which is not ready to discuss this important topic yet, considering it is still regarded as a taboo here.

The media’s role in this connection is also not promising. Udaari, a drama serial which was aired on a television channel and focused on the issue of child abuse, was banned by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) saying that the content was unethical and not suitable for a large number of viewers.

The most important step that can be taken against this shameful culture is to pass relevant legislation in this connection and to ensure that the laws are implemented, unlike what has happened in the past.

In addition, a healthy dose of courage and humanity should be injected in the public thinking to enable them to end the culture of silence on this issue in order to safeguard the future of our children.

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Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan had raised a lot of hue and cry when the murder case of young Zainab came to light during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government when Shehbaz Sharif was running the affairs of Punjab. Back then Khan had vowed to introduce effective legislation and take other measures to put an end to the growing trend of child abuse in the country.

Once in government, the Imran Khan-led PTI government, following in the footsteps of past rulers, also failed miserably to control the menace of child exploitation as no legislation has so far been passed by the incumbent government in this connection.

The inaction of successive government in Pakistan to rid society of the disgraceful practice of child abuse points towards bad governance which is hurting the present and future of our vulnerable children. The system needs an overhaul on war footing.

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