Child abuse on rise in Pakistan: A report by NGO Sahil

A Senate committee was informed on Monday that 300 cases of child sexual abuse were registered in Islamabad over the last five years, while another 260 cases went unregistered.

Cases of child abuse have been on the rise in Pakistan. A report compiled by NGO Sahil last year reveals that more than 12 children are abused every day. Instances of child abuse rose 32 per cent in the first six months of 2018 compared to the corresponding period in 2017, it says.

A Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) official earlier told Dawn that 3,445 cases of child abuse had been reported last year, according to data collected by NGOs.

Nuzhat Sadiq, the convener of the Senate special committee on the issue of increasing incidents of child abuse, raised concerns over human rights minister Shireen Mazari’s absence from the committee’s meeting today.”The surge in cases of child sexual abuse is a very important matter. The human rights minister did not attend the last session either,” Sadiq noted, adding: “This is very non-serious of her.”

Ministry of Human Rights representatives told the Senate committee that Mazari “is at PM House” and were unsure whether she would be able to attend the session.Capital police officials, while briefing the committee on incidents of violence against children, said that two girls who had been abducted from Islamabad in 2016 remain missing.

Furthermore, the police officials said, the force had kept over 1,400 street children off the streets at safe shelters but they had soon returned to begging on the streets.

Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed said that out of school children are at risk, and pointed out that according to the government’s data, there are roughly 25 million children currently out of school.

The Senator wondered why underage offenders are not “kept at juvenile centres even though such a facility exists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”.

The Senate special committee during a me­eting on October 16 had expressed dissatisfaction over the absence of a mechanism for an official database to record incidents of child sexual abuse.

Sadiq had directed the ministry to formulate a line of action and brief it on the issue during its next meeting.

Human Rights Ministry officials told the committee today that more than 80 laws for child protection exist and that measures are being taken to tackle child abuse cases.

The officials complained about the provinces’ lack of cooperation with the Centre on the issue, saying that letters had written to the provinces but not even one responded.

Subsequently, the committee decided to raise the issue with Prime Minister Imran Khan to request immediate orders for prevention of child abuse cases.

After the passage of the 18th Amendment, it is the provincial government’s responsibility to draft a child protection policy. However, no such policy document exists.

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