CHILD abuse is rampant in Pakistan, yet many news items still manage to shock readers to their core due to the sheer violence and brutality of the reported incident. On Friday, a suspect was killed in an ‘encounter’ by his co-accused, according to police, the day after he was arrested for raping a woman and her five-year-old daughter. Earlier on Wednesday, a four-year-old boy died at the Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Centre in Karachi after he was found in a semi-conscious state the day before; there were signs of torture and possible sexual assault inflicted on him. Last month, the body of an eight-year-old boy in Balochistan’s Kalat district was found by relatives and police showing signs of rape by multiple people. The same month, another eight-year-old was found hanging from a tree in Killa Abdullah district; he had been raped and strangled to death. The month before that, the body of an eight-year-old raped and murdered boy was found in Karachi’s Federal B Area, in the shadow of another horrific rape and murder of a five-year-old girl in Old Sabzi Mandi, sparking protests across the country.
While many express shock at what appears to be an increase in the number of such heinous crimes, it is likely that people are only now beginning to report in greater frequency things that remained hidden and unspoken for many years, cloaked in shame and secrecy. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg. Children lack agency, and they are rarely taken seriously or heard in our society, which makes them easy targets for abuse by the monsters that move freely in our midst. Violence against children is common, and to this day, there is a lack of consensus on who is categorised as a child in Pakistan, despite its being signatory to various international charters on the rights of children. Even in Sindh, which raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 years and made underage marriages a punishable offence, there are instances of the law being ignored. In the most recent case, the Sindh High Court ordered police to arrest all suspects who oversaw the wedding of a 14-year-old girl to a 44-year-old man in Karachi, including the cleric. In a video that is being circulated on social media, another popular cleric can be seen justifying the marriage of minor girls, using religion as a pretext. What minds are these?
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2020