As is now sadly common every few weeks or months, another case of a child’s abduction, assault and murder made headlines recently.
This time the victim was Zainab — reminiscent of the tragic Zainab of Kasur whose case made global headlines in 2018 —, a two-and-a-half-year-old girl from Prang, Charsadda, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The young child was raped and murdered, her body then dumped in Peshawar’s Daudzai area by her alleged abductor, who hails from the same neighbourhood as her and has since been apprehended by the police.
But the question remains – how many more children will the state fail to protect?
A report by the KP Home Department states that from January to August this year, a total of 184 cases of child abuse were recorded, including the deaths of four of those victims. According to the official data, the highest number of recorded cases – 34 – are from Dera Ismail Khan. Interestingly, no child abuse cases have been reported in this time period from the districts of Battagram, Upper Kohistan, Kolai-Palas, Lower Kohistan, Hangu and Tank. Moreover, the government also claims to have arrested 235 individuals involved in the cases.
While appreciating the data collection by the government, clinical psychologist Noorul Huda said it is more important to ascertain the cause behind the rise in such cases.
“Lack of timely marriages of boys, failure to re-marry after the loss of a wife, and marital issues or domestic trouble lead to men seeking physical satisfaction and taking out their frustration on younger, weaker subjects such as children,” explained Huda.
In January this year, after the rape and murder of young Noor in Nowshera, locals, as well as people across the country, erupted in anger against the government’s failure to protect vulnerable children and bring the culprits to book. The matter reached the provincial assembly where a bi-partisan committee was formed which included experts from both the government as well as private sector. The committee, after deliberating for five months, submitted its recommendations to the government recently.
The committee’s directives call for an amendment into the KP Child Protection and Welfare Act to ban and penalise corporal punishment in schools, as well as strict punishments for those using children for making pornography. The committee has also recommended division-level police stations dedicated to fighting violence against children, along with a dedicated forensic laboratory to help solve crimes related to children so the culprits can be identified without delay. It has also called for the installation of CCTV cameras in areas frequented by children, such as schools and parks.
The recommendations were presented in the KP Assembly last month, and the Social Welfare Department has incorporated them in a draft bill which is presently pending approval from the provincial cabinet — an action yet to be undertaken despite several cabinet meetings since.
Imran Takkar, who works for child rights, highlighted the importance of legislation safeguarding children but also called for strict implementation of laws to ensure their efficacy.