Child Sexual Abuse

By Areej Siddiqui
Out of the spotlight, child abuse is an important forgotten detail of Pakistan.

It is too easy to confine physical abuse to the lust for violence, sexual abuse to sexual frustration, emotional abuse to simple pig-headedness, but at the root of all these is raw power. Repeated studies and analyses of abusers show that abusers act out of a need for power[1]. In cases of child sexual abuse, the situation is further complicated by concepts of “honour” and the mobility allowed each child.

Though child labour isn’t considered much of an issue in third world countries, it frequently sets the stage for violent abuse. The Pirwadhai bus station in Rawalpindi is notorious for child prostitution; young boys are employed to “serve” clients more than just chai and samose[2]. Young girls have to contend with abusers in more of a domestic setting, either working as the help or simply living at home. Child marriages too fall under child abuse but go widely unreported[3].

Local NGOs have taken to recording cases presented in local media[4] but the data collected, is highly unrepresentative of the actual number. Crimes against children, unless resulting in death, seem well-tolerated even by the judiciary[5]. Child abuse in Pakistan is actively and passively supported by social conventions and the law enforcement system.

The personhood of children has been acknowledged by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child[6]; however, the de facto acceptance of this leaves much to be desired. Child abuse cannot be eradicated unless individuals recognise the power politics operating within their own relationships. If we are to treat children with the slightest amount of decency, we must first recognise children as persons with legitimate concerns and rights. Systemic as the problem of child abuse is, the battle to fight is a personal one.