Issue of Child Abuse in Pakistan
Child abuse is a very serious issue in Pakistan. Recently, this issue is being recognized, and an increase in reporting is being perceived as an increase in the prevalence/incidence of child abuse. The findings of various studies and data of reported cases confirm the serious prevalence of various forms of child abuse in Pakistan. Child physical abuse, child psychological or emotional abuse, child sexual abuse, and neglect are widely prevalent in Pakistan. According to a study (Abbas & Jabeen, 2019) overall prevalence of all forms of child sexual abuse including touching, fondling, exhibitionism and forced intercourse is approximately 41%. The prevalence of rape or forced intercourse during childhood is 8%. This prevalence of child sexual abuse is too high. However, no serious preventive, legislative, or policy measures are being taken by the government.
Following are the main issues in the current approach to solving the issue of child abuse in Pakistan
Human rights, social development or child rights are not on priority. Therefore, these sectors are not allocated enough financial and human resources and attention.
Distorted and misinformed public opinion on the issue of child abuse in Pakistan
People are not ill-informed about the causes and remedies of child abuse. This lack of awareness and information exists because of taboo and silence around the issue of child abuse in Pakistan.
How Distortion in public opinion affects public policy.
Due to a lack of awareness, there is no logical and evidence-informed opinion among the masses on the issue of child abuse and preventive measures. Good public opinion always translates into effective public policy. In the absence of informed public opinion, child protection policy is influenced by populism.
Causes of Distortion in public opinion
People are not being informed and educated about the issue of child abuse and especially about child sexual abuse.
Where is the focus of Child Protection Policy & where it should have been?
The focus of the child protection policy in Pakistan is on the punitive legislative aspects, populist measures, and winning the polls rather than addressing the issue of child abuse.
Role of media
The media has a vital role in addressing the issue of child abuse in Pakistan. The media can educate the people by introducing structured awareness campaigns in collaboration with the government and civil society.
Lack of research & evidence
There is a lack of research about various aspects of child abuse in Pakistan. This lack of data is a serious hindrance to understanding the issue of child abuse and designing an effective policy for addressing the issue of child abuse.
If no evidence about child abuse in Pakistan, how it is being legislated?
Good legislations are always evidence-informed and on the basis of the research conducted for understanding a social problem and its various dimensions. In Pakistan, there is a serious shortage of research studies on the issue of child abuse. In the absence of data and research, legislation is being done only about the punitive and populist aspects.
How to mend the faultlines?
It is very much important to conduct research to understand the issue of child abuse in Pakistan. It is also needed to create wider community-based awareness programs to educate the people about the causes and prevention of child abuse. At the school level children should be empowered by educating them about the strategies and techniques for self-protection and response to child abuse.
Who should come forward for mending the child protection policy faultlines?
Civil society, researchers, academia, media, and government should play their roles by developing coordination and partnership. Child protection professionals having expert knowledge about the protection of children and policy should arrange capacity-building sessions for child rights activists, media professionals, legislators, and government officials that how to address the issue of child abuse in Pakistan at the state level.
The issue of child abuse is gradually being recognized at various levels in Pakistan but this recognition has serious problems as discussed above. A serious debate should be generated on the issue of child abuse in Pakistan at the national level. This debate will be helpful for spreading awareness among the masses. It will also help in creating healthy public opinion which can translate into good policy and legislation by the emergence of demand by people to their representative and government for better policy and legislation.