Social and rights activists as well as researchers have called upon the Gilgit-Baltistan government to take policy and legislative measures for curbing child sexual abuse. They stressed the need for change in patriarchal mindset, raising awareness about the crime in schools and setting up care centres for vulnerable children.
They were speaking at a seminar on “Awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse in schools” conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Gilgit-Baltistan chapter in Gilgit on Thursday in connection with the universal children day observed on November 20.
The seminar was addressed by Aziz Ali Dad, a noted social scientist, researcher and columnist, Shahana Shah, a social activist and researcher, Irshad Kazmi, Chairman, Vision Welfare Association, Mujahid Ali Shah, Director, Social Welfare, GB and Muhammad Hussain, social activist.
The participants through a number of resolutions demanded the government to devise policy and legislate on curbing child sexual abuse, set up special centres or activate existing child protection centres with allocation of adequate funds.
Free legal service should be provided to the victims of child sexual abuse. They also called for frequent survey on child abuse and sharing data with public.
Special centres need to be set up with expert doctors and psychologists for providing counseling and psychological treatment and rehabilitation of victims of sexual abuse, terrorist acts, domestic violence, disaster and corporal punishment to make them useful member of society.
It should be made mandatory for public and private schools to set up committees in their respective institutes for creating awareness and prevention of the crime. They should be asked to arrange awareness and safety training sessions for students and their parents in the beginning of the academic year and include sexual abuse subject in curriculum at primary level.
School management should be asked to keep vigilant eye on the students at classrooms, washrooms and playground to protect them from any unwanted and objectionable activities by installing CCTV cameras.
Through another resolution it was demanded that committees should be set up to register complaints about and collect data on child abuse cases.
They also demanded that special fund and protection centres should be set up to take care and meet financial needs of vulnerable, orphaned and out of school children.
Aziz Ali Dad elaborated the topic in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan, the common psyche of society regarding child sexual abuse.
He questioned the hypocrisy, and double standards of the so-called religious and social morality of the male dominated society which don’t condemn the child sexual abuse unequivocally.
“We don’t impart education to our children in schools about the social ethos. Children and women are not well aware of the brutality of male family members who act like a feral beast outside their homes,” he commented.
The tribal, feudal and male-dominated society considers an abuser a hero while victim is characterized a malicious person, he said, and blamed the basic education system for the fault.
If we want to build a civilized society we will have to focus on ethics at early childhood education level, citing the example of Japan where the primary level education has only focus on language development and social ethos. Shahana Shah shed light on the definition of child sexual abuse and shared facts and figures, research studies, causes, effects and way forward of the nuisance of child sexual abuse.
Ms Shahana, who has been working on the rights of such children for the last many years in Gilgit Baltistan, said “Although all children are vulnerable but the orphan and abandon ones are more vulnerable,” highlighting the characteristic of patriarchal society.
Muhammad Hussain highlighted the importance of peer education and parenting skills. He also emphasized on the importance of education regarding social skills and character building.
Irshad Kazmi while representing persons with disabilities shared the case studies of vulnerability of children with disabilities for sexual abuse and every kind of victimization.
Participants during interactive session urged the government to take necessary steps for prevention of child sexual abuse in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Meanwhile the panelists answered the questions raised by students and other participants in question-answer session.
At the conclusion of seminar a resolution was also passed by the participants and handed over to Mujahid Ali Shah, Director, Child Rights Commission, Government of GB.
Earlier Israruddin Israr of the HRCP moderated the seminar and shared the aims and objectives of seminar and the topic.
He said: “Some topics are taboo in our society while these topics need more attention. We don’t talk on such social evils which affect the society in general and sabotage the moral and humanitarian values. We have selected such a topic which is considered a taboo whereas it ruins the lives of our new generation.”
He hoped that through such activities we will be able to generate a debate on this menace so that people will think on its way forward.
A large number of students and teachers from different schools, lawyers, journalists, social workers, human rights activists and representatives of civil society participated in the interactive session.
Child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan have increased from nine cases per day in 2017 to 12 cases per day in the first six months of 2018, a report compiled by Sahil, a non-government organization working for child rights.
This year from January to June, a total 2,322 child abuse cases were reported in newspapers. Of the total victims, 1,298 (56%) were girls and 1,024 (44%) were boys. The major crime categories of the reported cases were abduction (542), sodomy (381), rape (360), missing children (236), attempt of rape (224), gang sodomy (167), attempt of sodomy (112), and gang rape (92).
The data also revealed that children in the age brackets of 6-10 and 11-15 are most vulnerable to abuse.
Report statistics also show that 89% of cases were registered with the police. In 32 cases the police refused to register the case, 17 cases were unregistered with the police and the registration status of 196 cases were not mentioned in newspapers.